A biomimetic tumor tissue phantom for validating diffusion-weighted MRI measurements

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


  • Damien J McHugh
  • Feng-Lei Zhou
  • Ian Wimpenny
  • Josephine H Naish
  • Penny L Hubbard Cristinacce
  • Geoffrey JM Parker

Colleges, School and Institutes


Purpose To develop a biomimetic tumor tissue phantom which more closely reflects water diffusion in biological tissue than previously used phantoms, and to evaluate the stability of the phantom and its potential as a tool for validating diffusion-weighted (DW) MRI measurements. Methods Coaxial-electrospraying was used to generate micron-sized hollow polymer spheres, which mimic cells. The bulk structure was immersed in water, providing a DW-MRI phantom whose apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC) and microstructural properties were evaluated over a period of 10 months. Independent characterization of the phantom's microstructure was performed using scanning electron microscopy (SEM). The repeatability of the construction process was investigated by generating a second phantom, which underwent high resolution synchrotron-CT as well as SEM and MR scans. Results ADC values were stable (coefficients of variation (CoVs) < 5%), and varied with diffusion time, with average values of 1.44 ± 0.03 µm2/ms (Δ = 12 ms) and 1.20 ± 0.05 µm2/ms (Δ = 45 ms). Microstructural parameters showed greater variability (CoVs up to 13%), with evidence of bias in sphere size estimates. Similar trends were observed in the second phantom. Conclusion A novel biomimetic phantom has been developed and shown to be stable over 10 months. It is envisaged that such phantoms will be used for further investigation of microstructural models relevant to characterizing tumor tissue, and may also find application in evaluating acquisition protocols and comparing DW-MRI-derived biomarkers obtained from different scanners at different sites. Magn Reson Med, 2017. © 2017 The Authors Magnetic Resonance in Medicine published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. on behalf of International Society for Magnetic Resonance in Medicine. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Original languageEnglish
JournalMagnetic Resonance in Medicine
Early online date20 Nov 2017
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 20 Nov 2017