Molecular imaging used to detect high-risk plaque in heart patients

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Combined molecular imaging technologies may hold the key to preventing heart attacks, according to research presented at SNM 2007 in Washington, D.C.

"For the first time, we have shown that we can detect dangerous, high-risk plaque that causes heart attacks and strokes through the use of multidetector computed tomography (CT) imaging and a novel contrast agent," said James H. Rudd, a cardiologist and scientist with the Imaging Sciences Laboratory at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City.

Researchers also combined CT imaging with positron emission tomography (PET) imaging, "providing a new way to determine the amount of inflammation within atherosclerotic plaque and the chances of plaque causing a future heart attack or stroke," Rudd said.

"Each technique tells us something different about atherosclerosis," he said. Using CT imaging and N1177 (a nanoparticulate contrast agent from NanoScan Imaging LLC), researchers "were able to determine the size of plaque, whether it was causing narrowing of the arteries and whether any inflammatory cells were involved," said Rudd.

"From the PET scan, we got extra information about whether the plaques were dangerous and whether they could lead to problems for patients," he said. The combined imaging techniques focused "not only on the structure of plaque but also on the underlying molecular biology of the disease in the hope of guiding and monitoring future therapies.”

The Mount Sinai study was performed using an animal model. Additional research needs to be done with heart disease and stroke patients "to see if our approach gives more information than the traditionally used technique of invasive x-ray coronary angiography," said Rudd.
Part of the work at Mount Sinai was funded by the British Heart Foundation.