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Front. Phys. | doi: 10.3389/fphy.2018.00091

Characterization of prostate microstructure using water diffusion and NMR relaxation

 Gregory Lemberskiy1, 2*,  Els Fieremans1, 2,  Jelle Veraart1, 2, Andrew Rosenkrantz1, 2, 3 and Dmitry S. Novikov1, 2
  • 1Department of Radiology, School of Medicine, New York University, United States
  • 2Sackler Institute of Graduate Biomedical Sciences, School of Medicine, New York University, United States
  • 3Department of Radiology, Langone Medical Center, New York University, United States

For many pathologies, early structural tissue changes occur at the cellular level, on the scale of micrometers or tens of micrometers. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a powerful non-invasive imaging tool used for medical diagnosis, but its clinical hardware is incapable of reaching the cellular length scale directly. In spite of this limitation, microscopic tissue changes in pathology can potentially be captured indirectly, from macroscopic imaging characteristics, by studying water diffusion. Here we focus on water diffusion and NMR relaxation in the human prostate, a highly heterogeneous organ at the cellular level. We present a physical picture of water diffusion and NMR relaxation in the prostate tissue, that is comprised of a densely-packed cellular compartment (composed of stroma and epithelium), and a luminal compartment with almost unrestricted water diffusion. Transverse NMR relaxation is used to identify fast and slow T2 components, corresponding to these tissue compartments, and to disentangle the luminal and cellular compartment contributions to the temporal evolution of the overall water diffusion coefficient. Diffusion in the luminal compartment falls into the short-time surface-to-volume (S/V) limit, indicating that only a small fraction of water molecules has time to encounter the luminal walls of healthy tissue; from the S/V ratio, the average lumen diameter averaged over three young healthy subjects is measured to be 217.7±188.7 μm. Conversely, the diffusion in the cellular compartment is highly restricted and anisotropic, consistent with the fibrous character of the stromal tissue. Diffusion transverse to these fibers is well described by the random permeable barrier model (RPBM), as confirmed by the dynamical exponent ϑ=1/2 for approaching the long-time limit of diffusion, and the corresponding structural exponent in histology. The RPBM-derived fiber diameter and membrane permeability were 19.8±8.1 μm and 0.044±0.045 μm/ms, respectively, in agreement with known values from tissue histology and membrane biophysics. Lastly, we revisited 38 prostate cancer cases from a recently published study, and found the same dynamical exponent of diffusion in tumors and benign regions. Our results suggest that a multi-parametric MRI acquisition combined with biophysical modeling may be a powerful non-invasive complement to prostate cancer grading, potentially foregoing biopsies.

Keywords: Prostate Diffusion, microstructure imaging, prostate cancer, Microstructure modeling, Gleason Score, RPBM, Diffusion Tensor Imaging, diffusion MRI, prostate imaging, biophysical modeling, Time-dependent diffusion, PIRADS

Received: 27 Dec 2017; Accepted: 26 Jul 2018.

Edited by:

Julien Valette, Commissariat à l'Energie Atomique et aux Energies Alternatives (CEA), France

Reviewed by:

Eleftheria Panagiotaki, University College London, United Kingdom
Denis Grebenkov, Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS), France  

Copyright: © 2018 Lemberskiy, Fieremans, Veraart, Rosenkrantz and Novikov. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Mr. Gregory Lemberskiy, School of Medicine, New York University, Department of Radiology, New York City, United States,