Morphological characterization of hepatic steatosis and Monte Carlo modeling of MRI signal for accurate quantification of fat fraction and relaxivity


Chemical-shift-based fat-water MRI signal models with single- or dual-R2* correction have been proposed for quantification of fat fraction (FF) and assessment of hepatic steatosis. However, there is a void in our understanding of which model truly mimics the underlying biophysical mechanism of steatosis on MRI signal relaxation. The purpose of this study is to morphologically characterize and build realistic steatosis models from histology and synthesize MRI signal using Monte Carlo simulations to investigate the accuracy of single- and dual-R2* models in quantifying FF and R2*. Fat morphology was characterized by performing automatic segmentation on 16 mouse liver histology images and extracting the radius, nearest neighbor (NN) distance, and regional anisotropy of fat droplets. A gamma distribution function (GDF) was used to generalize extracted features, and regression analysis was performed to derive relationships between FF and GDF parameters. Virtual steatosis models were created based on derived morphological and statistical descriptors, and the MRI signal was synthesized at 1.5 T and 3 T. R2* and FF values were calculated using single- and dual-R2* models and compared with in vivo R2*-FF calibrations and simulated FFs. The steatosis models generated with regional anisotropy and NN distribution closely mimicked the true in vivo fat morphology. For both R2* models, predicted R2* values showed positive correlation with FFs, with slopes similar to those of the in vivo calibrations (P > 0.05), and predicted FFs showed excellent agreement with true FFs (R2 > 0.99), with slopes close to unity. Our study, hence, demonstrates the proof of concept for generating steatosis models from histologic data and synthesizing MRI signal to show the expected signal relaxation under conditions of steatosis. Our results suggest that a single R2* is sufficient to accurately estimate R2* and FF values for lower FFs, which agrees with in vivo studies. Future work involves characterizing and building steatosis models at higher FFs and testing single- and dual-R2* models for accurate assessment of steatosis.

Publication Title

NMR in Biomedicine