Researchers from Mount Sinai School of Medicine have for the first time developed a way to visualize coronary artery plaques vulnerable to rupture using multi-color computed tomography (CT), an innovation that will lead to better and earlier diagnosis of cardiovascular disease. The data are published in the September issue of Radiology.
Ruptures of atherosclerotic plaques are the cause of nearly 70 percent of heart attacks. High density lipoproteins (HDL), the "good" cholesterol, are drawn to plaques vulnerable to rupture and remove them from the arterial wall. The Mount Sinai team harnessed HDL by encapsulating tiny gold particles within it and injected them into mice. By using a sophisticated multi-color CT scanner, the researchers were able to see the gold particles as the HDL was targeting macrophages, or the cells that cause inflammation in the arterial wall, therefore illuminating the location of the vulnerable plaques.
"The use of multi-color CT and gold nanoparticles to visualize plaque will revolutionize cardiac imaging," said the research team leader, Zahi A. Fayad, PhD, Professor of Radiology and Medicine and the Director of the Translational and Molecular Imaging Institute at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. "The acquisition of this technology and development of this method will help us improve cardiovascular disease diagnosis in our patients, furthering our commitment to translational research. We look forward to continuing our study of this technology in the clinical setting."
Conventional CT detectors provide a gray image of the artery being studied, and do not provide contrast to differentiate types and density of tissue. In addition to showing the impact of the gold particles, spectral CT can simultaneously distinguish calcium deposits and contrast agents used such as iodine, which is often used to identify stenoses, or the narrowing of arteries, informing the severity of atherosclerosis and heart attack risk.
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The Mount Sinai Hospital / Mount Sinai School of Medicine