Blood–brain barrier water exchange measurements using contrast-enhanced ASL

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A technique for quantifying regional blood–brain barrier (BBB) water exchange rates using contrast-enhanced arterial spin labelling (CE-ASL) is presented and evaluated in simulations and in vivo. The two-compartment ASL model describes the water exchange rate from blood to tissue, (Formula presented.), but to estimate (Formula presented.) in practice it is necessary to separate the intra- and extravascular signals. This is challenging in standard ASL data owing to the small difference in (Formula presented.) values. Here, a gadolinium-based contrast agent is used to increase this (Formula presented.) difference and enable the signal components to be disentangled. The optimal post-contrast blood (Formula presented.) ((Formula presented.)) at 3 T was determined in a sensitivity analysis, and the accuracy and precision of the method quantified using Monte Carlo simulations. Proof-of-concept data were acquired in six healthy volunteers (five female, age range 24–46 years). The sensitivity analysis identified the optimal (Formula presented.) at 3 T as 0.8 s. Simulations showed that (Formula presented.) could be estimated in individual cortical regions with a relative error (Formula presented.) % and coefficient of variation (Formula presented.) %; however, a high dependence on blood (Formula presented.) was also observed. In volunteer data, mean parameter values in grey matter were: arterial transit time (Formula presented.) s, cerebral blood flow (Formula presented.) mL blood/min/100 mL tissue and water exchange rate (Formula presented.) s−1. CE-ASL can provide regional BBB water exchange rate estimates; however, the clinical utility of the technique is dependent on the achievable accuracy of measured (Formula presented.) values.

Original languageEnglish
JournalNMR in Biomedicine
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2023


  • arterial spin labelling
  • blood–brain barrier
  • gadolinium-based contrast agent
  • permeability
  • water exchange


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