The separate effects of lipids and proteins on brain MRI contrast revealed through tissue clearing. NeuroImage Leuze, C., Aswendt, M., Ferenczi, E., Liu, C. W., Hsueh, B., Goubran, M., Tian, Q., Steinberg, G., Zeineh, M. M., Deisseroth, K., McNab, J. A. 2017


Despite the widespread use of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain, the relative contribution of different biological components (e.g. lipids and proteins) to structural MRI contrasts (e.g., T1, T2, T2*, proton density, diffusion) remains incompletely understood. This limitation can undermine the interpretation of clinical MRI and hinder the development of new contrast mechanisms. Here, we determine the respective contribution of lipids and proteins to MRI contrast by removing lipids and preserving proteins in mouse brains using CLARITY. We monitor the temporal dynamics of tissue clearance via NMR spectroscopy, protein assays and optical emission spectroscopy. MRI of cleared brain tissue showed: 1) minimal contrast on standard MRI sequences; 2) increased relaxation times; and 3) diffusion rates close to free water. We conclude that lipids, present in myelin and membranes, are a dominant source of MRI contrast in brain tissue.

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