Contrast Enhanced Magnetic Resonance Imaging of Gastric Emptying and Motility in Rats

October 19, 2017

Contrast Enhanced Magnetic Resonance Imaging of Gastric Emptying and Motility in Rats

The assessment of gastric emptying and motility in humans and animals typically requires radioactive imaging or invasive measurements. Here, we developed a robust strategy to image and characterize gastric emptying and motility in rats based on contrast-enhanced magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computer-assisted image processing. The animals were trained to naturally consume a gadolinium-labeled dietgel while bypassing any need for oral gavage. Following this test meal, the animals were scanned under low-dose anesthesia for high-resolution T1-weighted MRI in 7-Tesla, visualizing the time-varying distribution of the meal with greatly enhanced contrast against non-GI tissues. Such contrast-enhanced images not only depicted the gastric anatomy, but also captured and quantified stomach emptying, intestinal filling, antral contraction, and intestinal absorption with fully-automated image processing. Over four post-ingestion hours, the stomach emptied by 27%, largely attributed to the emptying of the forestomach rather than the corpus and the antrum, and most notable during the first 30 minutes. Stomach emptying was accompanied by intestinal filling for the first 2 hours, while afterwards intestinal absorption was observable as cumulative contrast enhancement in the renal medulla. The antral contraction was captured as a peristaltic wave propagating from the proximal to distal antrum. The frequency, velocity, and amplitude of the antral contraction were on average 6.34±0.07 contractions per minute, 0.67±0.01 mm/s and 30.58±1.03%, respectively. These results demonstrate an optimized MRI-based strategy to assess gastric emptying and motility in healthy rats, paving the way for using this technique to understand GI diseases, or test new therapeutics in rat models.

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