While the view is better, they are able to use 400 times less of the contrast agent because it's delivered directly to plaques.
The tobacco virus-based nanoparticle, they said, offers another advantage: Most nanoparticles that have been developed to carry contrast agents are based on synthetic materials, some of which may stay in the body a while.
The tobacco virus is made of protein, which the body is well equipped to handle and flush from the system rapidly.
Steinmetz and Yu, members of the Case Center for Imaging Research, are now proposing to take the work a step further. They want to tailor the nanoparticles to show doctors whether the plaques are stable and require no treatment, or are vulnerable to rupture and require treatment. A rupture sets off the cascade of events that lead to heart attack and stroke.
To do this, they must first find different biomarkers of stable versus vulnerable plaques and coat the nanoparticles with different peptides and contrast agents that enable the MRI to tell one from the other.
"Our understanding of vulnerable plaques is incomplete, but once we can diagnose vulnerable plaques from stable plaques, it will be a paradigm shift in diagnosis and prognosis," Yu said.
In addition to using the technology to find vulnerabilities, it may also useful for delivering medicines and monitoring treatment, the researchers say.
|Contact: Kevin Mayhood|
Case Western Reserve University