Purpose: Quantitative magnetic resonance imaging (qMRI) provides a method for the non-invasive study of brain structure and associated changes, expressed in physical units. qMRI parameters have been shown to reflect brain tissue composition such as myelin. Nevertheless, it remains a major challenge to identify and quantify the contributions of specific molecular components to the MRI signal. Here, we describe a phantom system that can be used to evaluate the contribution of human brain lipids to qMRI parameters. Methods: A thin layer evaporation-hydration technique was used to formulate liposomes that mimic the physiological bi-layered membrane lipid environment. We then applied quantitative clinical MRI techniques with adjusted bias corrections in order to test the ability of the phantom system to estimate multiple qMRI parameters such as proton density (PD), T1, T2, T2* and magnetization transfer (MT). Results: The results indicated that phantoms composed of various lipids could provide a stable and reliable estimation of qMRI parameters. In addition, the calculated water fraction (WF) maps for the phantoms were found to accurately represent the true WF volumes. Conclusion: We have successfully created a biologically relevant liposome phantom system whose lipid composition can be fully controlled. This system can be used to measure the contributions of lipids to qMRI parameters under conditions that are relevant to in-vivo human scans.
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