Infoscience

Thesis

In vivo magnetic resonance studies of glycogen and hyperpolarized lithium in the rat brain

Nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) is used for a large array of applications, ranging from chemical characterization to oil drilling to medical imaging. In these fields NMR is used as an investigational tool, but new techniques and applications are continuously being developed as well. The latter is also the subject of this thesis. After an introduction to NMR theory, it focuses on the development of new methodologies for two separate areas of investigation: the metabolism of brain glycogen and hyperpolarization via dynamic nuclear polarization (DNP). Brain glycogen is the main storage form of glucose in the brain. However, because it is present in much lower concentrations in the brain than in other tissues, the significance of this storage and other roles are subject to debate. To better understand the roles of brain glycogen, it is important to quantify its metabolic parameters. The only currently available method to detect brain glycogen in vivo is 13C NMR spectroscopy. Incorporation of 13C-labeled glucose is necessary to allow glycogen measurement, but might be affected by changes in the turnover between glucose and glycogen. We therefore established a protocol to measure the glycogen absolute concentration in the rat brain by eliminating label turnover as a variable. The approach is based on establishing an increased, constant 13C isotopic enrichment (IE). 13C-glucose infusion is then performed at this IE of brain glycogen. As glycogen IE cannot be assessed in vivo, we validated that it can be inferred from the N-acetyl-aspartate (NAA) IE in vivo: after [1-13C]-glucose ingestion, glycogen IE was 2.2 ± 0.1 times that of NAA. Glycogen concentration measured in vivo by 13C NMR (5.8 ± 0.7 µmol/g) was in excellent agreement with post-mortem biochemistry (6.4 ± 0.6 µmol/g). A second glycogen NMR protocol was then implemented to measure concentration and turnover simultaneously. After reaching isotopic steady state for glycogen C1 using [1-13C]-glucose administration, [1,6-13C2]-glucose was infused such that isotopic steady state was maintained at the C1 position, but the C6 position reflected 13C label incorporation. To overcome the large chemical shift displacement error between the C1 and C6 resonances of glycogen, 2D gradient-based localization using the Fourier series window approach was implemented. The glycogen concentration of 5.1 ± 1.6 µmol/g measured from the C1 position was in excellent agreement with concomitant biochemical determinations, while glycogen turnover measured from the rate of label incorporation into the C6 position of glycogen in the α-chloralose anesthetized rat was 0.7 µmol/g/h. The contrast agent Omniscan was added to a formic acid-filled glass reference sphere in the abovementioned protocols in order to shorten its T1 relaxation time and to accelerate the calibration procedure it is used in; therefore it was established that Omniscan in pure 13C formic acid has a relaxivity of 2.9 mM-1s-1. The study was expanded, and the relaxivity of several commercially available gadolinium (Gd)-based contrast agents was determined for X-nuclei resonances with long intrinsic relaxation times. The relaxivity of Omniscan on the glutamate C1 and C5 in aqueous solution was   0.5 mM-1s-1. These relaxivities allow the preparation of solutions with a predetermined short 13C T1. Another isotope with a long relaxation time is lithium-6 (6Li). Lithium is an ion that is widely used in psychotherapy, and 6Li has an intrinsic relaxation time on the order of several minutes, which was strongly affected by the contrast agents. Its relaxivity ranged from   0.1 mM-1s-1 for Omniscan to 0.3 for Magnevist, whereas the relaxivity of Gd-DOTP was 11 mM-1s-1. Overall, these experiments suggested that the presence of submicromolar contrast agent concentrations should be detectable, provided sufficient sensitivity is available, such as that afforded by hyperpolarization. This submicromolar contrast agent concentration detection was demonstrated in a subsequent study: first it was established that lithium-6 can be readily hyperpolarized through DNP within 30 min while retaining a long polarization relaxation time on the order of a minute. The shortening of this relaxation time was used for the detection of 500 nM contrast agent in vitro. Hyperpolarized lithium-6 was then administered to the rat, where its signal retained a relaxation time on the order of 70 s in vivo. Localization experiments implied that the lithium signal originated from within the brain and that it was detectable up to 5 min after administration. Next,   1.5 µM of contrast agent was injected in the rat, and its effect on previously injected hyperpolarized lithium-6 was successfully quantified. It was concluded that the detection of submicromolar contrast agent concentrations using hyperpolarized NMR nuclei such as 6Li may provide a novel avenue for molecular imaging. In a separate set of of experiments, hyperpolarization through DNP was applied to 15N-labeled choline, 13C-labeled bicarbonate and 13C-labeled acetate. All three metabolites were successfully polarized and were detected both in vitro and in vivo.

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