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Intermolecular zero-quantum coherence detection for in vivo MR spectroscopy

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Balla, D. (2009). Intermolecular zero-quantum coherence detection for in vivo MR spectroscopy. PhD Thesis, Julius-Maximilians-Universität, Würzburg, Germany.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0013-C228-0
Nuclear magnetic resonance has numerous applications for in vivo diagnostics. However, methods requiring homogeneous magnetic fields, particularly magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) techniques, have limited applicability in regions near or on anatomical boundaries that cause strong inhomogeneities. In cases where the shim system can not or just partly correct for these inhomogeneities, methods based on intermolecular multiple quantum coherence (iMQC) detection can provide an alternative solution for in vivo MRS. This dissertation presented the development, validation and application potential of a novel MRS pulse sequence detecting intermolecular zero-quantum coherences (iZQC) with special emphasis on in vivo experiments. In addition, the detection limit and spectral behaviour of iZQC-MRS under modelled realistic conditions were systematically approached for the first time. Based on the original sequence used to detect two dimensional (2D) iZQC-spectra, dubbed HOMOGENIZED, methodological development led to increased sensitivity and water suppression, and decreased T2-relaxation effects through the application of a frequency selective 90° RF-pulse in place of a non selective beta-pulse. Best water suppression was achieved by placing a pair of selective refocusing units immediately prior to the acquisition window. The same placement was found to be optimal also for single voxel localization units based on slice selective spin echo refocusing. By voxel selection before the iZQC-MRS sequence, the chemical shift artefact could be avoided. However, this led to significant residual signal from outside the voxel. Analytical derivations of signal evolution for several sequences presented in this dissertation provide useful additions to the iZQC MRS theory. In vivo applications of the developed sequence provided high quality spectra in the central nervous system of the rat, the mouse brain and in subcutaneous xenograft tumor grown on the thigh of the mouse. In all these 2D spectra, the limiting factor of the resolution in the indirect dimension was the digital sampling rate, rather than inhomogeneous line broadening. Nevertheless, linewidths of the cross-peaks were similar or narrower than along the direct axis, where the sampling rate was about ten times higher. The first MR spectroscopic investigation of the rat spinal cord at 17.6 T was performed. Through its insensitivity to macroscopic field inhomogeneities, the localized iZQC method allowed for the selection of larger voxels than conventional methods and still provided the same spectral resolution. This property was used also in tumor tissue to propel the relative signal to noise (SNR) efficiency of the iZQC spectroscopy for the first time above the SNR efficiency of a conventional sequence. Future applications for fast metabolite count in large inhomogeneous organs, like a tumor, are thinkable. Extensive simulations and phantom experiments assessed the limit of iZQC cross-peak detection in presence of local field distortions. The order of maximum volume ratio between dipole source and voxel was found to be between 0.1 % and 1 %. It is an essential conclusion of this study that the dominant effect of microscopic to mesoscopic inhomogeneities on iZQC spectra under general in vivo conditions, like for voxels greater than (1 mm)³ and metabolite concentrations in the millimolar range, is a cross-peak intensity reduction and not line broadening. The iZQC method provided resolution enhancement in comparison to conventional MRS even in the presence of clustered paramagnetic microparticles. However, the vision of iZQC spectroscopy in green leafs or the lung epithelium has to be, unfortunately, abandoned, because cross-peaks can be observed until the volume of the separating medium is much larger than the volume of local dipole sources. Intermolecular zero-quantum coherence spectroscopy remains an exciting field in NMR research on living organisms. It provides access to the monitoring of relative metabolite concentration changes in the presence of microscopic iron particles, which raises realistic hopes for new applications in studies using stained stem cells.