• relaxation;
  • iron overload;
  • liver;
  • magnetic susceptibility;
  • mathematical modeling


MRI is becoming an increasingly important tool to assess iron overload disorders, but the complex nature of proton–iron interactions has troubled noninvasive iron quantification. Intersite and intersequence variability as well as methodological inaccuracies have been limiting factors to its widespread clinical use. It is important to understand the underlying proton relaxation mechanisms within the (human) tissue environment to address these differences. In this respect, NMR relaxometry was performed on 10 fresh human liver biopsy specimens taken from patients with transfusion-dependent anemia. T1 (1/R1) inversion recovery, T2 (1/R2) single echo, and multiecho T2 CPMG measurements were performed on a 60-MHz Bruker Minispectrometer. NMR parameters were compared to quantitative iron levels and tissue histology. Relaxivities R1 and R2 both increased linearly with hepatic iron content, with R2 being more sensitive to iron. CPMG data were well described by a chemical-exchange model and predicted effective iron center dimensions consistent with hemosiderin-filled lysosomes. Nonexponential relaxation was evident at short refocusing intervals with R2 and amplitude behavior suggestive of magnetic susceptibility-based compartmentalization rather than anatomic subdivisions. NMR relaxometry of human liver biopsy specimens yields unique insights into the mechanisms of tissue–iron relaxivity. Magn Reson Med, 2005. © 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.