Advanced cardiac chemical exchange saturation transfer (cardioCEST) MRI for in vivo cell tracking and metabolic imaging

Ashley Pumphrey, Zhengshi Yang, Shaojing Ye, David K. Powell, Scott Thalman, David S. Watt, Ahmed Abdel-Latif, Jason Unrine, Katherine Thompson, Brandon Fornwalt, Giuseppe Ferrauto, Moriel Vandsburger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


An improved pre-clinical cardiac chemical exchange saturation transfer (CEST) pulse sequence (cardioCEST) was used to selectively visualize paramagnetic CEST (paraCEST)-labeled cells following intramyocardial implantation. In addition, cardioCEST was used to examine the effect of diet-induced obesity upon myocardial creatine CEST contrast. CEST pulse sequences were designed from standard turbo-spin-echo and gradient-echo sequences, and a cardiorespiratory-gated steady-state cine gradient-echo sequence. In vitro validation studies performed in phantoms composed of 20mM Eu-HPDO3A, 20mM Yb-HPDO3A, or saline demonstrated similar CEST contrast by spin-echo and gradient-echo pulse sequences. Skeletal myoblast cells (C2C12) were labeled with either Eu-HPDO3A or saline using a hypotonic swelling procedure and implanted into the myocardium of C57B6/J mice. Inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry confirmed cellular levels of Eu of 2.1×10-3 ng/cell in Eu-HPDO3A-labeled cells and 2.3×10-5 ng/cell in saline-labeled cells. In vivo cardioCEST imaging of labeled cells at ±15ppm was performed 24h after implantation and revealed significantly elevated asymmetric magnetization transfer ratio values in regions of Eu-HPDO3A-labeled cells when compared with surrounding myocardium or saline-labeled cells. We further utilized the cardioCEST pulse sequence to examine changes in myocardial creatine in response to diet-induced obesity by acquiring pairs of cardioCEST images at ±1.8ppm. While ventricular geometry and function were unchanged between mice fed either a high-fat diet or a corresponding control low-fat diet for 14weeks, myocardial creatine CEST contrast was significantly reduced in mice fed the high-fat diet. The selective visualization of paraCEST-labeled cells using cardioCEST imaging can enable investigation of cell fate processes in cardioregenerative medicine, or multiplex imaging of cell survival with imaging of cardiac structure and function and additional imaging of myocardial creatine.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)74-83
Number of pages10
JournalNMR in Biomedicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.


  • Cell tracking
  • Chemical exchange saturation transfer
  • MRI
  • Metabolic imaging
  • Obesity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Spectroscopy


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