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Lasers used to detect heart attacks

By Tim Sandle     Sep 1, 2017 in Health
Patients at risk from heart problems can have these risks detected earlier due to the application of laser technology. Through the use of near-infrared light medics can identify high-risk arterial plaques.
The new method has been developed by researchers from University of Warwick, the Baker Institute and Monash University and it represents the application of digital technology to assist with identifying medical conditions.
The technology works by the increasing the wavelength of the light currently used to visualize the fatty build-up found in arteries (the detection of atherosclerotic plaques). Through this variation medics found they were able to identify the rupture-prone deposits. Such deposits are associated with conditions like blood clots, heart attacks and strokes. With these deposits, some can lead to complications, including bleeding into the plaque. This leads to the formation of cracks and rupture of the fatty plaque, and, in turn this causes blockages in the blood vessels.
Available imaging techniques can only show certain plaques and there is no definitive means to identify dangerous plaques. The new method overcomes this, through the use of infra-red radiation, which takes the form of a laser light. The plaques fluoresce when they are exposed to the light, by reflecting light back at a given wavelength. This was confirmed through the use of Raman spectroscopy (a spectroscopic technique used to observe vibrational, rotational, and other low-frequency modes in a system). The phenomenon only occurs in relation to unstable plaques associated with internal bleeding and it does not observed in the more stable fatty deposits.
Commenting on the innovation, the principal scientist explains Dr Tara Schiller, who works at the University of Warwick told the magazine The Engineer: “What we have done uses innovative, materials-based techniques to assist in the development of new diagnostic tools.” Through the use of technology, the researchers will be able to assess the risk of an imminent heart attack and to take appropriate action to protect the patient.
The technique can also be used assess the effectiveness of any drugs that are given to the patient to help to prevent strokes or heart diseases. The findings are published in the journal Nature Communications, under the title “Near-infrared autofluorescence induced by intraplaque hemorrhage and heme degradation as marker for high-risk atherosclerotic plaques.”
In related news, researchers from Northwestern University have developed a laser design platform that uses multicolored light to track for tumor growth. The application will be used by medical facilities and it offers an advance on current methods. See the Digital Journal article "Laser technology helps medics track tumor growth."
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