Our hypothesis was that the enhanced MRI of cartilage (dGEMRIC) imaging protocol could be used in patients to quantify the sulfated glycosaminoglycan (sGAG) in intervertebral discs (IVD). To test this hypothesis, 23 patients with degenerative disc pathology scheduled for surgery were studied by a specific dGEMRIC protocol: each patient underwent two MRI scans, before and 3.5 hr after Gd(DTPA)2-injection of a nonconventional dose of 40 mL. Then, T(1PRE-ENH) and T(1POST-ENH) parametric images of the disc were obtained, from which a new index DeltaT(1) of the molecular status of the IVD was computed (T(1PRE-ENH) - T(1POST-ENH)). A total of 31 tissue samples (one or two from each patient) obtained at herniectomy were collected and biochemically analyzed for sGAG content and used as the gold standard for comparison. DeltaT(1) values in correspondence to degenerated sectors were higher (158 +/- 36 ms) compared to normal sectors (80 +/- 13 ms). Linear regression analysis between MRI-derived and biochemistry-derived measurements resulted in a significant correlation (r = 0.73, P < 0.0001). The DeltaT(1) parametric images, calculated using the modified dGEMRIC technique, provided noninvasive quantitative information about sGAG content within discal tissue in vivo, which resulted in agreement with biochemical analysis. The application of this new MRI method could provide diagnostic information for standard treatment of lumbar discopathy and for innovative therapies of regenerative medicine.
2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc