Imaging cell size and permeability in biological tissue using the diffusion-time dependence of the apparent diffusion coefficient

Phys Med Biol. 2014 Jun 21;59(12):3081-96. doi: 10.1088/0031-9155/59/12/3081. Epub 2014 May 19.


The purpose of this study was to analyze and evaluate a model of restricted water diffusion between equidistant permeable membranes for cell-size and permeability measurements in biological tissue. Based on the known probability distribution of diffusion distances after the diffusion time τ in a system of permeable membranes characterized by three parameters (membrane permeability P, membrane distance L, and free diffusivity D0), an equivalent dimensionless model was derived with a probability distribution characterized by only a single (dimensionless) tissue parameter [Formula: see text]. Evaluating this proposed model function, the dimensionless diffusion coefficient [Formula: see text] was numerically calculated for 60 values of the dimensionless diffusion time [Formula: see text] and 35 values of [Formula: see text]. Diffusion coefficients were measured in a carrot by diffusion-weighted magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) at 18 diffusion times between 9.9 and 1022.7 ms and fitted to the simulation results [Formula: see text] to determine L, P, and D0. The measured diffusivities followed the simulated dependence of [Formula: see text]. Determined cell sizes varied from 21 to 76 μm, permeabilities from 0.007 to 0.039 μm(-1), and the free diffusivities from 1354 to 1713 μm(2) s(-1). In conclusion, the proposed dimensionless tissue model can be used to determine tissue parameters (D0, L, P) based on diffusion MRI with multiple diffusion times. Measurements in a carrot showed a good agreement of the cell diameter, L, determined by diffusion MRI and by light microscopy.

MeSH terms

  • Cell Membrane Permeability*
  • Cell Size*
  • Daucus carota / cytology
  • Diffusion
  • Diffusion Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Time Factors