Date of Award

Winter 2010

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

FW Hersman


Hyperpolarized 129Xe (HXe) is a non-invasive contrast agent for lung magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which upon inhalation follows the functional pathway of oxygen in the lung by dissolving into lung tissue structures and entering the blood stream. HXe MRI therefore provides unique opportunities for functional lung imaging of gas exchange which occurs from alveolar air spaces across the air-blood boundary into parenchymal tissue. However challenges in acquisition speed and signal-to-noise ratio have limited the development of a HXe imaging biomarker to diagnose lung disease.

This thesis addresses these challenges by introducing parallel imaging to HXe MRI. Parallel imaging requires dedicated hardware. This work describes design, implementation, and characterization of a 32-channel phased-array chest receive coil with an integrated asymmetric birdcage transmit coil tuned to the HXe resonance on a 3 Tesla MRI system.

Using the newly developed human chest coil, a functional HXe imaging method, multiple exchange time xenon magnetization transfer contrast (MXTC) is implemented. MXTC dynamically encodes HXe gas exchange into the image contrast. This permits two parameters to be derived regionally which are related to gas-exchange functionality by characterizing tissue-to-alveolar-volume ratio and alveolar wall thickness in the lung parenchyma. Initial results in healthy subjects demonstrate the sensitivity of MXTC by quantifying the subtle changes in lung microstructure in response to orientation and lung inflation. Our results in subjects with lung disease show that the MXTC-derived functional tissue density parameter exhibits excellent agreement with established imaging techniques. The newly developed dynamic parameter, which characterizes the alveolar wall, was elevated in subjects with lung disease, most likely indicating parenchymal inflammation. In light of these observations we believe that MXTC has potential as a biomarker for the regional quantification of 1) emphysematous tissue destruction in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (using the tissue density parameter) and 2) parenchymal inflammation or thickening (using the wall thickness parameter). By simultaneously quantifying two lung function parameters, MXTC provides a more comprehensive picture of lung microstructure than existing lung imaging techniques and could become an important non-invasive and quantitative tool to characterize pulmonary disease.