To longitudinally monitor progressive fibrosis in the transforming growth factor-α (TGF-α) transgenic mouse model of lung fibrosis, we used retrospective self-gating ultrashort echo time (UTE) magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to image mouse lung at baseline and after 4 and 8 wk of fibrosis initiation via doxycycline administration. Only bitransgenic mice were used in this study and divided into two cohorts: six mice were fed doxycycline food to induce lung fibrosis (referred to as Dox cohort), and five other mice were fed normal food (referred to as control cohort). Lung mechanics, histology, and hydroxyproline were assessed after the final MRI. A linear mixed-effects model was used to analyze MRI-derived longitudinal lung-function parameters. Tidal volume decreased at a rate of -0.016 ± 0.002 ml/week [χ2(1) = 16.48, P < 0.001] for Dox cohort and increased at a rate of 0.010 ± 0.003 ml/week [χ2(1) = 6.37, P = 0.01] for control cohort. Minute ventilation decreased at a rate of -1.71 ± 0.26 ml·min-1·wk-1 [χ2(1) = 14.04, P < 0.001] for Dox cohort but did not change significantly over time for control cohort. High-density lung volume percentage increased at a rate of 3.9 ± 0.7%/wk for Dox cohort [χ2(1) = 11.47, P < 0.001] but did not change significantly over time for control cohort. MRI-derived lung structure and function parameters were strongly correlated with pleural thickness, hydroxyproline content, lung compliance, airway resistance, and airway elastance. We conclude that self-gating UTE MRI could be used to longitudinally monitor lung fibrosis in the TGF-α transgenic mouse model. NEW & NOTEWORTHY Self-gating UTE MRI was used to monitor morphology and physiology in lung fibrosis in a transforming growth factor-α transgenic mouse model. Tidal volume was shown for the first time to correlate strongly with conventional metrics of fibrosis such as hydroxyproline and pleural thickness.
Keywords: elf-gating; pulmonary fibrosis; ultrashort echo time magnetic resonance imaging.