BACKGROUND: Novel cardiovascular magnetic resonance (CMR) techniques and imaging biomarkers are often validated in small animal models or empirically in patients. Direct translation of small animal CMR protocols to humans is rarely possible, while validation in humans is often difficult, slow and occasionally not possible due to ethical considerations. The aim of this study is to overcome these limitations by introducing an MR-compatible, free beating, blood-perfused, isolated pig heart model for the development of novel CMR methodology. METHODS: 6 hearts were perfused outside of the MR environment to establish preparation stability. Coronary perfusion pressure (CPP), coronary blood flow (CBF), left ventricular pressure (LVP), arterial blood gas and electrolyte composition were monitored over 4 hours. Further hearts were perfused within 3T (n = 3) and 1.5T (n = 3) clinical MR scanners, and characterised using functional (CINE), perfusion and late gadolinium enhancement (LGE) imaging. Perfusion imaging was performed globally and selectively for the right (RCA) and left coronary artery (LCA). In one heart the RCA perfusion territory was determined and compared to infarct size after coronary occlusion. RESULTS: All physiological parameters measured remained stable and within normal ranges. The model proved amenable to CMR at both field strengths using typical clinical acquisitions. There was good agreement between the RCA perfusion territory measured by selective first pass perfusion and LGE after coronary occlusion (37% versus 36% of the LV respectively). CONCLUSIONS: This flexible model allows imaging of cardiac function in a controllable, beating, human-sized heart using clinical MR systems. It should aid further development, validation and clinical translation of novel CMR methodologies, and imaging sequences.
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