Quasi-steady-state amide proton transfer (QUASS APT) MRI enhances pH-weighted imaging of acute stroke

Magn Reson Med. 2022 Dec;88(6):2633-2644. doi: 10.1002/mrm.29408. Epub 2022 Aug 19.


Purpose: Chemical exchange saturation transfer (CEST) imaging measurement depends not only on the labile proton concentration and pH-dependent exchange rate but also on experimental conditions, including the relaxation delay and radiofrequency (RF) saturation time. Our study aimed to extend a quasi-steady-state (QUASS) solution to a modified multi-slice CEST MRI sequence and test if it provides enhanced pH imaging after acute stroke.

Methods: Our study derived the QUASS solution for a modified multislice CEST MRI sequence with an unevenly segmented RF saturation between image readout and signal averaging. Numerical simulation was performed to test if the generalized QUASS solution corrects the impact of insufficiently long relaxation delay, primary and secondary saturation times, and multi-slice readout. In addition, multiparametric MRI scans were obtained after middle cerebral artery occlusion, including relaxation and CEST Z-spectrum, to evaluate the performance of QUASS CEST MRI in a rodent acute stroke model. We also performed Lorentzian fitting to isolate multi-pool CEST contributions.

Results: The QUASS analysis enhanced pH-weighted magnetization transfer asymmetry contrast over the routine apparent CEST measurements in both contralateral normal (-3.46% ± 0.62% (apparent) vs. -3.67% ± 0.66% (QUASS), P < 0.05) and ischemic tissue (-5.53% ± 0.68% (apparent) vs. -5.94% ± 0.73% (QUASS), P < 0.05). Lorentzian fitting also showed significant differences between routine and QUASS analysis of ischemia-induced changes in magnetization transfer, amide, amine, guanidyl CEST, and nuclear Overhauser enhancement (-1.6 parts per million) effects.

Conclusion: Our study demonstrated that generalized QUASS analysis enhanced pH MRI contrast and improved quantification of the underlying CEST contrast mechanism, promising for further in vivo applications.

Keywords: CEST; amide proton transfer (APT); magnetization transfer MTR asymmetry (MTRasym); pH imaging; stroke.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Amides
  • Amines
  • Dimaprit / analogs & derivatives
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Image Interpretation, Computer-Assisted / methods
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Protons*
  • Stroke* / diagnostic imaging


  • Amides
  • Amines
  • Protons
  • APT
  • Dimaprit