A new near-infrared diagnostic technique could help improve early detection for patients at risk of heart attacks or strokes, according to a new multi-center study.
Researchers at the University of Warwick’s WMG, the Baker Institute and Monash University reported that when they increased the wavelength of light currently used to visualize athereosclerotic plaques, they were able to selectively identify rupture-prone deposits, which can lead to blood clots, heart attacks and strokes.
Data from a study of the technique was published in the journal Nature Communications.
Current imaging techniques are able to identify certain characteristic of high-risk plaques, researchers reported, but none are currently accepted as reliable methods for detecting such plaques.
“What we have done uses innovative, materials-based techniques to assist in the development of new diagnostic tools. This could help us to detect the threat of an imminent heart attack and result in a decrease of the mortality rates” Dr Tara Schiller of the University of Warwick WMG said in a press release.
Dr. Schiller said that their team discovered that by increasing the wavelength of infrared radiation currently used to detect fatty deposit build-up in arteries to near-infrared wavelength, they were able to selectively identify plaques with internal bleeding, which is typically assocaited with high-risk deposits.
Researchers estimated that a mixture of heme products, formed during the degradation of red blood cells, caused the fluorescence. The fluorescing products were only observed in unstable plaques with internal bleeding, researchers added, and not more stable deposits.
“Despite the millions of dollars spent each year particularly on heart imaging, there still isn’t a reliable way of identifying these unstable plaques. We realised when we shine a light in the near-infrared wavelength range, that this light is reflected at a certain wavelength. So in a way we can use laser light to shine up the plaques that are unstable, and it’s very characteristic,” Dr Karlheinz Peter said in a prepared statement.
Study investigators are hopeful that the imgaging technique could be used to assess unstable fatty arterial plaque, and monitor the effectiveness of treatments used to prevent heart attacks or strokes.