Multi-parametric hyperpolarized 13C/1H imaging reveals Warburg-related metabolic dysfunction and associated regional heterogeneity in high-grade human gliomas

Neuroimage Clin. 2023:39:103501. doi: 10.1016/j.nicl.2023.103501. Epub 2023 Aug 18.


Background: Dynamic hyperpolarized (HP)-13C MRI has enabled real-time, non-invasive assessment of Warburg-related metabolic dysregulation in glioma using a [1-13C]pyruvate tracer that undergoes conversion to [1-13C]lactate and [13C]bicarbonate. Using a multi-parametric 1H/HP-13C imaging approach, we investigated dynamic and steady-state metabolism, together with physiological parameters, in high-grade gliomas to characterize active tumor.

Methods: Multi-parametric 1H/HP-13C MRI data were acquired from fifteen patients with progressive/treatment-naïve glioblastoma [prog/TN GBM, IDH-wildtype (n = 11)], progressive astrocytoma, IDH-mutant, grade 4 (G4AIDH+, n = 2) and GBM manifesting treatment effects (n = 2). Voxel-wise regional analysis of the cohort with prog/TN GBM assessed imaging heterogeneity across contrast-enhancing/non-enhancing lesions (CEL/NEL) and normal-appearing white matter (NAWM) using a mixed effects model. To enable cross-nucleus parameter association, normalized perfusion, diffusion, and dynamic/steady-state (HP-13C/spectroscopic) metabolic data were collectively examined at the 13C resolution. Prog/TN GBM were similarly compared against progressive G4AIDH+ and treatment effects.

Results: Regional analysis of Prog/TN GBM metabolism revealed statistically significant heterogeneity in 1H choline-to-N-acetylaspartate index (CNI)max, [1-13C]lactate, modified [1-13C]lactate-to-[1-13C]pyruvate ratio (CELval > NELval > NAWMval); [1-13C]lactate-to-[13C]bicarbonate ratio (CELval > NELval/NAWMval); and 1H-lactate (CELval/NELval > NAWMundetected). Significant associations were found between normalized perfusion (cerebral blood volume, nCBV; peak height, nPH) and levels of [1-13C]pyruvate and [1-13C]lactate, as well as between CNImax and levels of [1-13C]pyruvate, [1-13C]lactate and modified ratio. GBM, by comparison to G4AIDH+, displayed lower perfusion %-recovery and modeled rate constants for [1-13C]pyruvate-to-[1-13C]lactate conversion (kPL), and higher 1H-lactate and [1-13C]pyruvate levels, while having higher nCBV, %-recovery, kPL, [1-13C]pyruvate-to-[1-13C]lactate and modified ratios relative to treatment effects.

Conclusions: GBM consistently displayed aberrant, Warburg-related metabolism and regional heterogeneity detectable by novel HP-13C/1H imaging techniques.

Keywords: GBM; Hyperpolarized carbon-13; IDH; Metabolism; Treatment effects.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bicarbonates
  • Glioblastoma* / diagnostic imaging
  • Glioma* / diagnostic imaging
  • Humans
  • Lactic Acid
  • Pyruvic Acid


  • Bicarbonates
  • Lactic Acid
  • Pyruvic Acid