For almost two decades, cardiologists have searched for ways to see dangerous blood clots before they cause heart attacks.
Now, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis report that they have designed nanoparticles that find clots and make them visible to a new kind of X-ray technology.
According to Gregory Lanza, MD, PhD, a Washington University cardiologist at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, these nanoparticles will take the guesswork out of deciding whether a person coming to the hospital with chest pain is actually having a heart attack.
"Every year, millions of people come to the emergency room with chest pain. For some of them, we know it's not their heart. But for most, we're not sure," says Lanza, a professor of medicine. When there is any doubt, the patient must be admitted to the hospital and undergo tests to rule out or confirm a heart attack.
"Those tests cost money and they take time," Lanza says.
Rather than an overnight stay to make sure the patient is stable, this new technology could reveal the location of a blood clot in a matter of hours.
The nanoparticles are designed to be used with a new type of CT scanner that is capable of "seeing" metals in color. The new technology, called spectral CT, uses the full spectrum of the X-ray beam to differentiate objects that would be indistinguishable with a regular CT scanner that sees only black and white.
Lanza says the new scanner takes advantage of the same physics that astronomers use to look at the light from a star and tell what metals it contains.
"They're looking at the X-ray spectrum, and the X-ray spectrum tells them what metals are there," he says. "That's exactly what we do."
In this case, the metal in question is bismuth. Dipanjan Pan, PhD, research assistant professor of medicine, designed a nanoparticle that contains enou
|Contact: Julia Evangelou Strait|
Washington University School of Medicine