How To Detect Blocked Arteries Effectively

Heart disease and stroke are the world’s two most deadly diseases, causing over 15 million deaths in 2016 according to the World Health Organization. A key underlying factor in both of these global health crises is the common condition, atherosclerosis, or the build-up of fatty deposits, inflammation and plaque on the walls of blood vessels. By the age of 40, around half of us will have this condition, many without symptoms.

A new nanoparticle innovation from researchers in USC Viterbi’s Department of Biomedical Engineering may allow doctors to pinpoint when plaque becomes dangerous by detecting unstable calcifications that can trigger heart attacks and strokes. The research ­­— from Ph.D. student Deborah Chin under the supervision of Eun Ji Chung, the Dr. Karl Jacob Jr. and Karl Jacob III Early-Career Chair, in collaboration with Gregory Magee, assistant professor of clinical surgery from Keck School of Medicine of USC — was recently published in the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Journal of Materials Chemistry B on 25 September 2019.

When atherosclerosis occurs in coronary arteries, blockages due to plaque or calcification-induced ruptures can lead to a clot, cutting blood flow to the heart, which is the cause of most heart attacks. When the condition occurs in the vessels leading to the brain, it can cause a stroke.

A MICROSCOPIC VIEW OF ATHEROSCLEROSIS IN A PULMONARY ARTERY

An artery doesn’t need to be 80 percent blocked to be dangerous. An artery with 45% blockage by plaques could be more rupture-prone,” Chung said. “Just because it’s a big plaque doesn’t necessarily mean it’s an unstable plaque.

Chung said that when small calcium deposits, called microcalcifications, form within arterial plaques, the plaque can become rupture prone. However, identifying whether blood vessel calcification is unstable and likely to rupture is particularly difficult using traditional CT and MRI scanning methods, or angiography, which has other risks.

Angiography requires the use of catheters that are invasive and have inherent risks of tissue damage,” said Chin, the lead author. “CT scans on the other hand, involve ionizing radiation which can cause other detrimental effects to tissue.”

Source: https://viterbischool.usc.edu/