Gifford A, Towse TF, Walker RC, Avison MJ, Welch EB. Human brown adipose tissue depots automatically segmented by positron emission tomography/computed tomography and registered magnetic resonance images. Journal of visualized experiments : JoVE. PMID: 25741672 [PubMed] PMCID: PMC4354647
Reliably differentiating brown adipose tissue (BAT) from other tissues using a non-invasive imaging method is an important step toward studying BAT in humans. Detecting BAT is typically confirmed by the uptake of the injected radioactive tracer 18F-Fluorodeoxyglucose (18F-FDG) into adipose tissue depots, as measured by positron emission tomography/computed tomography (PET-CT) scans after exposing the subject to cold stimulus. Fat-water separated magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) has the ability to distinguish BAT without the use of a radioactive tracer. To date, MRI of BAT in adult humans has not been co-registered with cold-activated PET-CT. Therefore, this protocol uses 18F-FDG PET-CT scans to automatically generate a BAT mask, which is then applied to co-registered MRI scans of the same subject. This approach enables measurement of quantitative MRI properties of BAT without manual segmentation. BAT masks are created from two PET-CT scans: after exposure for 2 hr to either thermoneutral (TN) (24 °C) or cold-activated (CA) (17 °C) conditions. The TN and CA PET-CT scans are registered, and the PET standardized uptake and CT Hounsfield values are used to create a mask containing only BAT. CA and TN MRI scans are also acquired on the same subject and registered to the PET-CT scans in order to establish quantitative MRI properties within the automatically defined BAT mask. An advantage of this approach is that the segmentation is completely automated and is based on widely accepted methods for identification of activated BAT (PET-CT). The quantitative MRI properties of BAT established using this protocol can serve as the basis for an MRI-only BAT examination that avoids the radiation associated with PET-CT.