CCC 2011: Imaging the Inner Workings of the Heart

December 2011

Coronary artery disease is an inflammatory condition characterized by plaque deposits, which can rupture, causing heart attack and stroke. The Holy Grail for researchers remains finding a way to non-invasively determine which plaques are at risk for rupture. Several graduate students discussed research into whether advanced imaging techniques can provide this information. These projects are part of a broad-based effort at the Heart Institute to extend the capabilities of cardiac imaging.

Lyne Sleiman presented positron emission tomography (PET) research using FDG, a type of radioactive tracer, to detect changes in atherosclerotic lesions. Co-registration of the PET images with computed tomography allowed the researchers to accurately view the identified plaques. FDG holds promise as a non-invasive method to monitor plaques, though Sleiman stressed that work is still in process to validate these results.

Stephanie Thorn tested a different radiotracer, called [18F]-Pykyne-C (RGDYK), to target developing blood vessels that are present during plaque formation. The project successfully tested a simplified process for making the radiotracer, which had previously required laborious chemical synthesis. Under the direction of Dr. Michael Gollob, the lab plans to see whether in the clinical setting, the compound can detect atherosclerotic plaques.

Myra Cocker presented another FDG-PET study looking at its use in the clinic for imaging carotid artery plaques. The team members found that “hot spots” identified by PET corresponded to narrowed areas in the artery. They also confirmed inflammatory activity in those plaques from samples taken in procedures to clear the arteries.