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article imageNew detector leads to early atherosclerosis detection

By Tim Sandle     Mar 8, 2017 in Health
A new, non-invasive method to assess inflammation has been developed. The aim is to use the device for the early identification of atherosclerotic plaques before they rupture. Early detection helps to treat heart disease.
The new device is based on a type of positron emission tomography radiotracer: gallium-68 (Ga-68)-pentixafor. Positron emission tomography is a form of nuclear medicine in the form of a functional imaging technique. The imaging technique is used to observe metabolic processes in the human body. The process works by detecting pairs of gamma rays emitted indirectly by a positron-emitting radionuclide (called a tracer). The radionuclide or radiotracer is introduced into the body via a biologically active molecule. The main use of the scan is to assess blood flow and metabolism and medics assess the data to understand diseases progression.
With the new development, Ga-68-pentixafor binds to a receptor called CXCR4 on the surface of inflammatory cells. These cells are present in atherosclerotic plaques in blood vessels and the presence or absence informs medics about the health status of an individual.
The disease atherosclerosis occurs when an artery wall thickens. This is the direct result of invasion and accumulation of white blood cells (foam cells) and proliferation of intimal-smooth-muscle cell. These create an atheromatous (fibrofatty) plaque. This medical risk is where an atherosclerotic plaque ruptures leading to blood clots and the loss of oxygenated blood to the heart. This leads to a heart attack and stroke.
The earlier that medics can detect plaque formation, the greater chance that adverse cardiac events can be prevented. This is where the new development should prove useful. Talking with Laboratory Roots, lead researcher Dr. Fabien Hyafil, from Klinikum Rechts der Isar in Germany said: "This new radiotracer will strongly facilitate the imaging of inflammation in atherosclerotic plaques with PET and hopefully support the early detection and treatment of atherosclerosis. Thus, preventing heart attack or stroke."
The advantage of the Ga-68-pentixafor is that it is rapid and it avoids the need for patients to fast at least six hours prior to beginning the scan process. It is also more accurate and screens out background noise (blood sugar or muscle cells) that affects other detectors. Ga-68-pentixafor binds more specifically to inflammatory cells.
The research is published in the Journal of Nuclear Chemistry in a paper called “Imaging the Cytokine Receptor CXCR4 in Atherosclerotic Plaques with the Radiotracer 68Ga-Pentixafor for PET.”
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