3He diffusion MRI in human lungs

J Magn Reson. 2018 Jul:292:90-98. doi: 10.1016/j.jmr.2018.04.007. Epub 2018 Apr 26.


Hyperpolarized 3He gas allows the air spaces of the lungs to be imaged via MRI. Imaging of restricted diffusion is addressed here, which allows the microstructure of the lung to be characterized through the physical restrictions to gas diffusion presented by airway and alveolar walls in the lung. Measurements of the apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC) of 3He at time scales of milliseconds and seconds are compared; measurement of acinar airway sizes by determination of the microscopic anisotropy of diffusion is discussed. This is where Dr. JJH Ackerman's influence was greatest in aiding the formation of the Washington University 3He group, involving early a combination of physicists, radiologists, and surgeons, as the first applications of 3He ADC were to COPD and its destruction/modification of lung microstructure via emphysema. The sensitivity of the method to early COPD is demonstrated, as is its validation by direct comparison to histology. More recently the method has been used broadly in adult and pediatric obstructive lung diseases, from severe asthma to cystic fibrosis to bronchopulmonary dysplasia, a result of premature birth. These applications of the technique are discussed briefly.

Keywords: COPD; Diffusion imaging; Hyperpolarized; Lungs; Neonatal; Pediatric; Restricted diffusion.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Diffusion
  • Diffusion Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Helium* / chemistry
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Lung / diagnostic imaging*
  • Lung Diseases, Obstructive / congenital
  • Lung Diseases, Obstructive / diagnostic imaging
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / diagnostic imaging
  • Xenon Isotopes


  • Xenon Isotopes
  • Helium