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Keywords:

  • skeletal muscle;
  • exercise;
  • lactate;
  • metabolism;
  • magnetic resonance spectroscopy

Despite its importance in energy metabolism, lactate in human skeletal muscle has been difficult to detect by noninvasive 1H-magnetic resonance spectroscopy mainly due to interference from large water and lipid signals. Long echo-time acquisitions at 7 T effectively attenuates the water and lipid signals in forearm muscle allowing direct observation of both lactate resonances, the methine at 4.09 ppm and the methyl at 1.31 ppm. Using this approach, we were able to monitor lactate dynamics at a temporal resolution of 32 s. While lactate was not detectable at rest, immediately after an acute period of exercise to fatigue the forearm muscle, lactate rose to a level comparable to that of creatine (∼30 mmol/kg wet weight). In a typical 1H-magnetic resonance spectrum collected using a echo-time of 140 ms, the lactate methine and methyl resonances both appear as doublets with an unusually large splitting of ∼20 Hz due to residual dipolar coupling. During muscle recovery following exercise, the lactate signals decay rapidly with a time constant of t½ = 2.0 ± 0.6 min (n = 12 subjects). This fast and simple lactate detection method may prove valuable for monitoring lactate metabolism in cancer and in sports medicine applications. Magn Reson Med 70:610–619, 2013. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.