New Technology Reveals Coronary Artery Cells

Imaging scanner shows 3-D details of coronary arteries

(RxWiki News) Doctors have many different imaging technologies available to diagnose and treat patients. Viewing tiny arteries, particularly in heart patients, has proven much more difficult.

With those difficulties in mind, researchers at the Wellman Center for Photomedicine at Massachusetts General Hospital have created new high-resolution imaging technology that can reveal nearly microscopic details of coronary arteries.

"Ask your doctor about artery imaging technology that is currently available."

The device displays images at 10-times greater resolution than current imaging machinery. It can reveal cellular and subcellular features of coronary artery disease.

Doctors are able to view individual cells that contribute to the formation of coronary plaques. Most importantly, it could help doctors identify vulnerable plaques, white blood cells and cholesterol in artery walls that could lead to a heart attack or stroke.

This is particularly significant because the only way to identify these signs right now is through an autopsy.

The research was published in the journal Nature Medicine.

Dr. Gary Tearney, lead study author and physician at the Wellman Center pathology department, said the device has the necessary contrast and resolution required to view cellular and subcellular features of coronary atherosclerosis, which occurs when artery walls harden.

The device is also capable of showing detailed images of stents placed in coronary arteries. It clearly distinguishes bare-metal stents from those covered with a drug-releasing polymer and can reveal defects in the polymer coating.

Researchers expect that the microOCT will be available for use within three to five years.

The study was funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Massachusetts General Hospital has filed patent applications on the microOCT technology.

Review Date: 
July 10, 2011