Report from SCMR: Discovering underlying causes of disease improves diagnosis and treatment

February 6, 2007

Using cardiac MR imaging to discover the underlying processes of cardiovascular diseases is helping researchers learn how to diagnose and treat heart disease more quickly and effectively. Scientific abstracts presented over the weekend at the 2007 Society for Cardiac Magnetic Resonance meeting in Rome demonstrated the value of preclinical research.

Using cardiac MR imaging to discover the underlying processes of cardiovascular diseases is helping researchers learn how to diagnose and treat heart disease more quickly and effectively. Scientific abstracts presented over the weekend at the 2007 Society for Cardiac Magnetic Resonance meeting in Rome demonstrated the value of preclinical research.

Researchers in the Washington University laboratory of Dr. Samuel Wickline in St. Louis have made steady progress over five years toward developing an alpha-v beta-3 integrin-targeted perfluorocarbon nanoparticle that identifies the location of early atherosclerosis and delivers therapy to the site. Wickline's group presented evidence demonstrating the probe's potential for curing atherosclerosis before irreversible damage occurs.

Using fluorine MR spectroscopy on an 11.7T small-bore scanner, Emily A. Waters, a graduate student in the department of biomedical engineering at Washington, examined rabbits treated with either an alpha-v beta-3-targeted perfluorocarbon nanoparticle containing 15-crown-5 ether or the same probe containing safflower, rendering it invisible to fluorine MRS.

During this two-armed experiment, Waters observed a decline in signal in the induced aortic plaques in animals that received targeted safflower contrast, while the signal in the targeted crown ether agents remained strong. The results confirmed that the targeted agent binds specifically to alpha-v beta-3 integrin in angiogenic vasculature. Because fluorine is not naturally present in living tissue, targeted perfluorocarbon nanoparticles show great promise for enhancing early inflammatory components of developing disease, the authors said.

A research team supervised by Dr. Valentin Fuster, a professor of cardiology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, explored why beta-blocker therapy initiated soon after a heart attack improves patient survival and reduces irreversible damage to the heart. The animal study revealed that beta blockers reduce infarct size after reperfusion to stimulate their cardioprotective effects.

Dr. Andrew Arai, principal investigator of the cardiac MR section of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, reported findings from his group's work with patients with Friedreich's ataxia. The condition, which usually has a childhood onset, is the most common cause of muscle failure. More than 90% of these patients die because of heart failure. Until now, it has not been understood if the cause of heart failure was the increasing thickening of the heart or if the thickening was due to other disease processes. Research presented by Arai's group showed that fibrosis is the first step in the disease process, and this may be used as an early indicator.

For more information from the Diagnostic Imaging archives:

Molecular imaging brings the vision of personalized medicine into focus

NCI establishes nanotech centers of excellence

Human trial of F-18 galacto-RGD measures angiogenic process of cancer