Diffusion of water in tissues and MRI

Magn Reson Med. 1991 Jun;19(2):214-6. doi: 10.1002/mrm.1910190204.


The purpose of this paper is to present an overview of the diffusive behavior of water in biological tissues. The analysis shows that obstructive barriers would have to occupy very large volume fractions in order to account for the reduction in the diffusion coefficient (D) observed in biological systems. Generally, most models lead to the supposition that a substantial fraction (20-40%) of the cell water is hydration water, or that the diffusion coefficient of the cytoplasmic water is reduced substantially from the free water value. Thus, the conclusion that a substantial fraction of cell water has diffusive properties that are altered by the macromolecules of the cytoplasm seems inescapable. The impact of these findings on MRI remain to be determined.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Body Water / metabolism*
  • Cells / metabolism
  • Diffusion
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Tissue Distribution