Importance: The process of brain development in children with developmental delay is not well known. Amide proton transfer-weighted (APTw) imaging is a novel molecular magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technique that can noninvasively detect cytosolic endogenous mobile proteins and peptides involved in the myelination process, and may be useful for providing insights into brain development. Objective: To assess the contribution of amide proton transfer-weighted (APTw) imaging and magnetization transfer (MT) imaging to the evaluation of children with developmental delay (DD). Methods: Fifty-one patients with DD were recruited to this study. The patients were divided into two groups according to the state of myelination assessed on conventional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Thirty patients (10 girls, 20 boys; age range: 1–8 months; median age: 4 months) in group A showed delayed myelination on MRI, while 21 patients (3 girls, 18 boys; age range: 12–36months; median age: 25months) in group B showed normal myelination on MRI. Fifty-one age- and sex-matched children with normal developmental quotient (DQ) and normal MRI appearance were recruited as normal controls. Three-slice APTw/MT axial imaging was performed at the level of the centrum semiovale, the basal ganglia and the pons. Quantitative data of the MT ratio (MTR) and APTw were analyzed for multiple brain regions. Independent-sample t-tests were used to compare differences in APTw and MTR signals between the two DD groups and normal controls. Analysis of Covariance was conducted to correct the statistical results. The level of statistical significance was set to P < 0.05. Results: For group A, the MTR values were lower in all regions (P = 0.004–0.033) compared with the normal controls, while the APTw values were higher in the pons, middle cerebellar peduncle, corpus callosum, frontal white matter, occipital white matter and centrum semiovale (P = 0.004–0.040). For Group B, the MTR values were slightly reduced, and the APTw values were slightly increased compared with the normal controls, but the differences were not statistically significant (P > 0.05). Interpretation: For DD patients showing signs of delayed myelination on MRI, MTR and APTw imaging can help to diagnose myelination delay by quantifying semi-solid macromolecules and cytosolic endogenous mobile proteins and peptides at a molecular level, providing a new method for comprehensive evaluation of DD. For DD patients with normal myelination on MRI, the clinical values of MTR and APTw imaging remain to be explored.
- Amide proton transfer
- Developmental delay
- Magnetization transfer
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health