The aim of this study was to acquire the transient MRI signal of hyperpolarized tracers and their metabolites efficiently, for which specialized imaging sequences are required. In this work, a multi-echo balanced steady-state free precession (me-bSSFP) sequence with Iterative Decomposition with Echo Asymmetry and Least squares estimation (IDEAL) reconstruction was implemented on a clinical 3 T positron-emission tomography/MRI system for fast 2D and 3D metabolic imaging. Simulations were conducted to obtain signal-efficient sequence protocols for the metabolic imaging of hyperpolarized biomolecules. The sequence was applied in vitro and in vivo for probing the enzymatic exchange of hyperpolarized [1–13C]pyruvate and [1–13C]lactate. Chemical shift resolution was achieved using a least-square, iterative chemical species separation algorithm in the reconstruction. In vitro, metabolic conversion rate measurements from me-bSSFP were compared with NMR spectroscopy and free induction decay-chemical shift imaging (FID-CSI). In vivo, a rat MAT-B-III tumor model was imaged with me-bSSFP and FID-CSI. 2D metabolite maps of [1–13C]pyruvate and [1–13C]lactate acquired with me-bSSFP showed the same spatial distributions as FID-CSI. The pyruvate-lactate conversion kinetics measured with me-bSSFP and NMR corresponded well. Dynamic 2D metabolite mapping with me-bSSFP enabled the acquisition of up to 420 time frames (scan time: 180-350 ms/frame) before the hyperpolarized [1–13C]pyruvate was relaxed below noise level. 3D metabolite mapping with a large field of view (180 × 180 × 48 mm3) and high spatial resolution (5.6 × 5.6 × 2 mm3) was conducted with me-bSSFP in a scan time of 8.2 seconds. It was concluded that Me-bSSFP improves the spatial and temporal resolution for metabolic imaging of hyperpolarized [1–13C]pyruvate and [1–13C]lactate compared with either of the FID-CSI or EPSI methods reported at 3 T, providing new possibilities for clinical and preclinical applications.
- Balanced steady-state free precession
- Dynamic nuclear polarization
- Magnetic resonance imaging
- Metabolite mapping