Public Release: 

Combining molecular imaging technologies to stop/prevent heart attacks

In a first, Mount Sinai researchers use multiple molecular imaging techniques to detect 'high-risk' plaque, according to research reported at SNM's 54th Annual Meeting June 2-6

Society of Nuclear Medicine

WASHINGTON, D.C.--The use of combined imaging technologies may hold the key to stopping--and even preventing--heart attacks, according to research reported at the 54th Annual Meeting of SNM, the world's largest society for molecular imaging and nuclear medicine professionals.

"For the first time, we have shown that we can detect dangerous, high-risk plaque that causes heart attacks and strokes through the use of multidetector computed tomography (CT) imaging and a novel contrast agent," said James H. Rudd, a cardiologist and scientist with the Imaging Sciences Laboratory at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. Additionally, researchers combined CT imaging with positron emission tomography (PET) imaging, "providing a new way to determine the amount of inflammation within atherosclerotic plaque and the chances of plaque causing a future heart attack or stroke," he noted.

The slow, progressive buildup of fats, cholesterol and other substances--called plaque--on the inner lining of arteries causes atherosclerosis, which can lead to heart disease. Plaques can narrow the heart's arteries, allowing less blood to flow to the heart muscle (causing angina), and plaques that rupture may cause sudden heart attack, stroke or death. Nearly 80 million Americans have one or more forms of cardiovascular disease.

"Using both imaging techniques together--an excellent example of multimodality molecular imaging--gave more information than using them separately," explained Rudd. "Each technique tells us something different about atherosclerosis," he said. With CT imaging and N1177 (a nanoparticulate contrast agent used to improve the effectiveness of CT and provided by NanoScan Imaging LLC), researchers "were able to determine the size of plaque, whether it was causing narrowing of the arteries and whether any inflammatory cells were involved," said Rudd. "From the PET scan, we got extra information about whether the plaques were dangerous and whether they could lead to problems for patients," he added. The combined imaging techniques focused "not only on the structure of plaque but also on the underlying molecular biology of the disease in the hope of guiding and monitoring future therapies," said Rudd.

PET is a highly specialized, noninvasive imaging technique that uses short-lived radioactive substances to produce three-dimensional color images of those substances functioning within the body. Unlike CT, which provides anatomic images, PET scanning provides information about the body's chemistry, metabolic activity and function not available through other procedures.

Rudd explained that the Mount Sinai study was performed using an animal model of atherosclerosis that "behaves" like the disease in humans. Additional research needs to be done with heart disease and stroke patients "to see if our approach gives more information than the traditionally used technique of invasive X-ray coronary angiography," he said. Rudd, who also holds a position at the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine in Cambridge, United Kingdom, said that part of the work at Mount Sinai was funded by the British Heart Foundation, a charity that supports research and education about heart disease.

"This work features the enhanced imaging of atherosclerotic plaques--using a novel combination of technologies," said Josef Machac, SNM's Scientific Program Committee cardiovascular vice chair. "FDG-PET has been demonstrated to be taken up in macrophage-rich plaques, indicating an inflammatory component of atherosclerosis," added the director of nuclear medicine at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City.

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Scientific Paper 3: J.H. Rudd, F. Hyafil, J. Cornily, G. Aguinaldo, V. Fuster, Z.A. Fayad, Imaging Science Laboratory, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, N.Y.; A. Rafique and J. Machac, Division of Nuclear Medicine, Mount Sinai Hospital, New York, N.Y., "Molecular Imaging of Atherosclerosis Using FDG PET/CT With a Novel, Macrophage-Specific CT Contrast Agent," SNM's 54th Annual Meeting, June 2-6, 2007.

About SNM--Advancing Molecular Imaging and Therapy

SNM is holding its 54th Annual Meeting June 2-6 at the Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C. Session topics for the 2007 meeting include brain amyloid imaging, hybrid imaging, molecular imaging in clinical drug development and evaluation, functional brain imaging in epilepsy and dementia, imaging instrumentation, infection imaging, lymphoma and thyroid cancer, cardiac molecular imaging, general nuclear medicine, critical elements of care in radiopharmacy and more.

SNM is an international scientific and professional organization of more than 16,000 members dedicated to promoting the science, technology and practical applications of molecular and nuclear imaging to diagnose, manage and treat diseases in women, men and children. Founded more than 50 years ago, SNM continues to provide essential resources for health care practitioners and patients; publish the most prominent peer-reviewed journal in the field (the Journal of Nuclear Medicine); host the premier annual meeting for medical imaging; sponsor research grants, fellowships and awards; and train physicians, technologists, scientists, physicists, chemists and radiopharmacists in state-of-the-art imaging procedures and advances. SNM members have introduced--and continue to explore--biological and technological innovations in medicine that noninvasively investigate the molecular basis of diseases, benefiting countless generations of patients. SNM is based in Reston, Va.; additional information can be found online at http://www.snm.org.

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