Biomechanical image mapping may help heal heart attack victims

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A new method to capture images of the biomechanical properties of the heart may soon be a technique used to heal heart attack victims.  

New research, published in the Optical Society (OSA) journal Biomedical Optics Express, has shown how using optical coherence elastography (OCE) to compare the mechanical properties of healthy and scarred heart tissue left by an induced heart attack in mice is applicable to examining a human's scarred heart tissue left from myocardial infarction. 

"Today, about one million people suffer heart attacks every year and there is currently no cure for the resulting cardiac tissue scarring," said co-author of the study Kirill V. Larin, PhD, from the University of Houston. "We are working to develop ways to regenerate heart tissue and our research works to measure the mechanical properties to determine if the heart is healing in response to therapies." 

OCE, based on the principles optical coherence tomography, creates high-resolution maps of tissue mechanics through disseminating mechanical waves into the tissue, according to the press release.  

For this particular study involving mice, researchers argued OCE is better suited than an MRI or ultrasound when examining such small hearts.  

"Because of the small size and delicate nature of the mouse heart, we had to make special equipment to generate very small perturbations on the tissue," said Larin. "The pressure, timing and location of this applied force had to be very precise. The waves also had to have very small amplitudes, which was important for preserving the tissue." 

Larin and his team found that in areas of the mice's hearts that experienced suffered the most from the myocardial infarction, the damaged tissue was more disorganized and mechanically stiff than the healthy tissue.  

"In the future, we want to use the technique to examine regenerated heart tissue to help us find a therapy that can benefit the millions of people worldwide who have experienced a heart attack," Larin wrote.