The researchers from the UC Davis has combined intravascular ultrasound (IVUS) with fluorescence lifetime imaging (FLIm) in a single catheter probe that can image the tiny arteries of a living heart.
Professor Laura Marcu's lab in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at UC Davis has developed a more efficient approach (FLIm-IVUS) to examine the blood vessels that could provide a structural and biochemical information about the arterial plaque that could more reliably predict heart attacks. The new device was described in a recent issue of the journal Scientific Reports.
To manage the heart diseases, cardiologists need better ways to identify the composition of plaque that causes heart-attack. Angiography includes the examination of constricted regions of blood vessels by injecting a contrast agent before X-ray imaging. However, angiography can miss dangerous accumulations of plaque. Intravascular ultrasound can identify the depth of the plaque but cannot find some of the finer details about the risk of plaque rupture.
The research team led by the professor Laura Marcu has designed the new catheter, which includes the combination of intravascular ultrasound (IVUS) and fluorescence lifetime imaging (FLIm) in a single catheter probe that could image the tiny arteries of a living heart. The new device enables to record the structural and biochemical features of arterial plaque that could more reliably predict heart attacks.
The catheter consists an optical fiber that sends short laser pulses into surrounding tissue, which fluoresces with tiny flashes of light in return. Different kinds of tissues (collagen, proteins, and lipids) emit different amounts of fluorescence, while ultrasound probe in the catheter records the structural information of the blood vessels.
The researchers have tested FLIm-IVUS in living swine hearts and samples of human coronary arteries, as it is very flexible enough to access coronary arteries in living human following standard procedures. The technique does not require any injected fluorescent tracers or any modification in the catheterization procedures.
Along with the better insight into the mechanisms underlying plaque rupture, the FLIm-IVUS aids the diagnosis and treatment of patients with heart disease. Currently, the researchers are working to get the FDA approval to assess the new intravascular technology in human trials.