Diffusion magnetic resonance monitors intramyocellular lipid droplet size in vivo

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Intramyocellular lipid (IMCL) droplets are dynamic organelles whose morphology reflects their vital roles in lipid synthesis, usage, and storage in muscle energy metabolism. To develop noninvasive means to measure droplet microstructure in vivo, we investigated the molecular diffusion behavior of IMCL with diffusion magnetic resonance spectroscopy.


Using extremely large diffusion weighting, we measured the IMCL apparent diffusion coefficients (ADCs) in hindlimb muscle of rodents from normal feeding, 60-h fasting, streptozotocin-induced diabetic, and high-fat-diet-induced obese groups.


IMCL ADCs decreased markedly with diffusion time, confirming the restricted diffusion of lipid molecules within IMCL droplets. IMCL droplet size, determined by transmission electron microscopy, was closely correlated with ADC. IMCL ADC was sensitive to metabolic alterations, decreasing in the 60-h fasting and diabetic groups while increasing in the obese group. These findings indicated that the IMCL droplet size decreased following 60-h fasting and in STZ-induced diabetes but increased in high-fat-diet-induced obesity.


MR diffusion characterization of IMCL droplet size provides a unique means to examine the intracellular lipid dynamics and metabolic abnormalities in vivo. Magn Reson Med 73:59–69, 2015. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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