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White matter biomarkers from fast protocols using axially symmetric diffusion kurtosis imaging

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White matter tract integrity (WMTI) can characterize brain microstructure in areas with highly aligned fiber bundles. Several WMTI biomarkers have now been validated against microscopy and provided promising results in studies of brain development and aging, as well as in a number of brain disorders. Currently, WMTI is mostly used in dedicated animal studies and clinical studies of slowly progressing diseases, and has not yet emerged as a routine clinical tool. To this end, a less data intensive experimental method would be beneficial by enabling high resolution validation studies, and ease clinical applications by speeding up data acquisition compared with typical diffusion kurtosis imaging (DKI) protocols utilized as part of WMTI imaging. Here, we evaluate WMTI based on recently introduced axially symmetric DKI, which has lower data demand than conventional DKI. We compare WMTI parameters derived from conventional DKI with those calculated analytically from axially symmetric DKI. We employ numerical simulations, as well as data from fixed rat spinal cord (one sample) and in vivo human (three subjects) and rat brain (four animals). Our analysis shows that analytical WMTI based on axially symmetric DKI with sparse data sets (19 images) produces WMTI metrics that correlate strongly with estimates based on traditional DKI data sets (60 images or more). We demonstrate the preclinical potential of the proposed WMTI technique in in vivo rat brain (300 μm isotropic resolution with whole brain coverage in a 1 h acquisition). WMTI parameter estimates are subject to a duality leading to two solution branches dependent on a sign choice, which is currently debated. Results from both of these branches are presented and discussed throughout our analysis. The proposed fast WMTI approach may be useful for preclinical research and e.g. clinical evaluation of patients with traumatic white matter injuries or symptoms of neurovascular or neuroinflammatory disorders.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere3741
JournalNMR in Biomedicine
Volume30
Issue9
Number of pages17
ISSN0952-3480
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2017

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