Injectable MRI technique could help detect heart disease

New technology developed at New York’s Binghamton University could change the way clinicians detect heart disease with MRI scans, research published in the journal Colloid and Surfaces B: Biointerfaces suggests.

Research assistant professor Amber Doiron, PhD, and a colleague at Temple University in Philadelphia developed the novel MRI imaging procedure, according to a news release. The technology is injectable and, when applied, makes inflammation easier to detect in a patient’s body.

“We created a nanoparticle-based contrast agent for MRI,” Doiron said in the release. “It can theoretically be injected and, when activated, we can actually see areas of inflammation on the MRI scan. Doctors use factors like blood pressure and cholesterol level to get an idea of a patient’s risk. Then they use plaque size as a general measure of whether a person has to disease. But there’s a fairly poor correlation between plaque size and heart attack or stroke.”

The technology Doiron and colleagues developed is an activatable agent based on superparamagnetic iron oxide nanoparticles (SPIOs) and is sensitive to oxidative stress, which is a factor in the pathophysiology of many diseases, she explained in her study. SPIOs were coated with polyethylene glycol and complexed with polygallol, which react to create the tech’s magnetic resonance relaxivity.

Inflammation is a marker of not just heart disease, but illnesses from allergies and asthma to hepatitis, Doiron said. So, theoretically, her new technology could be applicable to a wide range of medical conditions, and with it, doctors would be able to pinpoint inflammation more quickly and with more accuracy.