Background Skeletal muscles include fast and slow muscle fibers. The tibialis anterior muscle (TA) is mainly composed of fast muscle fibers, whereas the soleus muscle (SOL) is mainly composed of slow muscle fibers. However, a noninvasive approach for appropriately investigating the characteristics of muscles is not available. Monitoring of skeletal muscle characteristics can help in the evaluation of the effects of strength training and diseases on skeletal muscles. Purpose The present study aimed to determine whether q-space imaging can distinguish between TA and SOL in in vivo mice. Methods In vivo magnetic resonance imaging of the right calves of mice (n = 8) was performed using a 7-Tesla magnetic resonance imaging system with a cryogenic probe. TA and SOL were assessed. q-space imaging was performed with a field of view of 10 mm × 10 mm, matrix of 48 × 48, and section thickness of 1000 μm. There were ten b-values ranging from 0 to 4244 s/mm 2 , and each b-value had diffusion encoding in three directions. Magnetic resonance imaging findings were compared with immunohistological findings. Results Full width at half maximum and Kurtosis maps of q-space imaging showed signal intensities consistent with immunohistological findings for both fast (myosin heavy chain II) and slow (myosin heavy chain I) muscle fibers. With regard to quantification, both full width at half maximum and Kurtosis could represent the immunohistological findings that the cell diameter of TA was larger than that of SOL (P < 0.01). Conclusion q-space imaging could clearly differentiate TA from SOL using differences in cell diameters. This technique is a promising method to noninvasively estimate the fiber type ratio in skeletal muscles, and it can be further developed as an indicator of muscle characteristics.
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