Noninvasive magnetic resonance imaging may help predict who's at risk for a heart attack

January 25, 2007

The study suggests that magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)--a highly sensitive technique that provides three-dimensional views of tissue at the molecular level--effectively measured macrophages or white blood cells, in the arterial walls of blood vessels. These detailed images allowed researchers not only to see macrophage activity, but also to determine whether the activity was unstable and likely to trigger a heart attack or stroke, explains senior study author Zahi A. Fayad, PhD, Director of the Eva and Morris Feld Cardiovascular Imaging Research Laboratory and a Professor of Radiology and Medicine (Cardiology) at The Mount Sinai Medical Center.

Dr. Fayad and his colleagues injected mice with a synthetic material that tracked down and attached itself to macrophages embedded in the arterial walls. Twenty-four hours after injection, MRI tests showed that measuring and assessing macrophages in the arterial walls yielded a 79 percent increase in detection compared with the initial baseline images taken the day before.

"Our study results clearly show that detecting and measuring macrophage levels using MRI could be an effective and non-invasive screening tool for what's becoming one of the leading public health threats worldwide," Dr. Fayad explains. "We have known that macrophages are red flags indicating inflammation in the blood vessels, and mounting evidence has cemented the causal relationship between inflammation and cardiovascular disease. Yet we lacked the technology to measure this inflammation at the molecular level and predict who was at risk. Now, the technology is here, and our findings demonstrate that this new approach in cardiovascular screening not only works, but works very well."

The next step is to test this new approach in larger animals before moving to human clinical trials. Dr. Fayad says it's possible this technique could become part of standard clinical practice in the next few years.

Atherosclerosis is the pathological cause behind cardiovascular, cerebrovascular, and peripheral arterial diseases. It is currently the leading cause of death in industrialized nations, and is estimated that in the next 15 years, cardiovascular diseases alone will be the leading cause of death worldwide.
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About The Mount Sinai Hospital

The Mount Sinai Hospital is one of the nation's oldest, largest and most-respected voluntary hospitals. Founded in 1852, Mount Sinai today is a 1,171-bed tertiary-care teaching facility that is internationally acclaimed for excellence in clinical care.

About Mount Sinai School of Medicine

Located in Manhattan, Mount Sinai School of Medicine is internationally recognized for ground-breaking clinical and basic-science research, and innovative approaches to medical education. Through the Mount Sinai Graduate School of Biological Sciences, Mount Sinai trains biomedical researchers with an emphasis on the rapid translation of discoveries of basic research into new techniques for fighting disease. One indication of Mount Sinai's leadership in scientific investigation is its receipt during fiscal year 2005 of $174.1 million in research support from NIH. Mount Sinai School of Medicine also is known for unique educational programs such as the Humanities in Medicine program, which creates opportunities for liberal arts students to pursue medical school, and instructional innovations like The Morchand Center, the nation's largest program teaching students and physicians with "standardized patients" to become not only highly skilled, but compassionate caregivers. Long dedicated to improving its community, the School extends its boundaries to work with East Harlem and surrounding communities to provide access to health care and educational programs to at risk populations.

The Mount Sinai Hospital / Mount Sinai School of Medicine

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