Quantitative assessment of lung microstructure in healthy mice using an MR-based 3He lung morphometry technique

E. Osmanagic, A. L. Sukstanskii, J. D. Quirk, J. C. Woods, R. A. Pierce, M. S. Conradi, E. R. Weibel, D. A. Yablonskiy

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The recently developed technique of lung morphometry using hyperpolarized 3He diffusion magnetic resonance (MR) (Yablonskiy DA, Sukstanskii AL, Woods JC, Gierada DS, Quirk JD, Hogg JC, Cooper JD, Conradi MS. J Appl Physiol 107:1258-1265, 2009) permits in vivo study of lung microstructure at the alveolar level. Originally proposed for human lungs, it also has the potential to study small animals. The technique relies on theoretical developments in the area of gas diffusion in lungs linking the diffusion attenuated MR signal to the lung microstructure. To adapt this technique to small animals, certain modifications in MR protocol and data analysis are required, reflecting the smaller size of mouse alveoli and acinar airways. This is the subject of the present paper. Herein, we established empirical relationships relating diffusion measurements to geometrical parameters of lung acinar airways with dimensions typical for mice and rats by using simulations of diffusion in the airways. We have also adjusted the MR protocol to acquire data with much shorter diffusion times compared with humans to accommodate the substantially smaller acinar airway length. We apply this technique to study mouse lungs ex vivo. Our MR-based measurements yield mean values of lung surface-to-volume ratio of 670 cm-1, alveolar density of 3,200 per mm3, alveolar depth of 55 μm, and mean chord length of 62 μm, all consistent with published data obtained histologically in mice by unbiased methods. The proposed technique can be used for in vivo experiments, opening a door for longitudinal studies of lung morphometry in mice and other small animals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1592-1599
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Applied Physiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2010


  • Alveoli
  • He gas diffusion
  • Lung microstructure
  • Lung morphometry
  • Magnetic resonance imaging
  • Mouse lungs


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