Heart Disease Research

Molecular imaging is already playing an important role in the diagnosis, management and risk stratification of patients with heart disease. However, we have only seen the beginning of a new and ever expanding frontier using targeted molecular imaging.

Molecular imaging approaches not only complement existing imaging technology, but will also permit the early detection of disease — before changes in physiological function or anatomical structure occur. Molecular imaging will enhance the development and application of truly personalized treatment. Molecular imaging will affect clinical care indirectly by facilitating faster and better drug development and improving the basic understanding of cardiovascular disease.

There are many new and emerging molecular imaging technologies that may help patients with heart disease. In addition to using myocardial perfusion imaging and nuclear functional studies, physicians are using new radiotracers such as  I-123-metaiodobenzylguanidine (MIBG) with SPECT and carbon-11-meta-hydroxyephedrine or carbon-11-mHED with PET to:

  • assess the potential for sudden cardiac death and other cardiac events in patients who have suffered a heart attack or who have chronic heart failure
  • improve the selection of patients who receive automatic internal cardiac defibrillators (AICDs)
  • identify the development of congestive heart failure.

Physicians are also using activation levels of an enzyme called matrix metalloproteinases (MMP), which can be imaged with PET, to determine help determine left ventricular remodeling (changes in the size, shape, and function of the heart after injury).

Other molecular imaging procedures and technologies under development include:

  • fusion imaging, also called co-registration or hybrid imaging, which allows information from two different studies to be viewed on one image.
  • the use of imaging biomarkers
  • the use of cardiovascular molecular imaging to monitor genetic or stem cell therapy
  • nanomedicine, including the use of laser-activated nanoparticles to destroy atherosclerotic plaque and adult stem cells to rejuvenate arteries.