Current CT scans can only tell us whether arteries in the heart are narrowing or not. A CT scan report may not tell us which arteries are vulnerable to narrowing with plaque formation or which plaque may rupture. Plaque formation is an irreversible condition. This artery narrowing and plaque rupturing process lead a patient to the heart attack.
Researchers say rupture of small plaques in the heart arteries causes 50 percent of the heart attacks even though they are highly inflamed but not tapered significantly. Currently, there are no tests or procedures which can identify this condition. Scientists say cardiologists can prevent heart attacks if they can diagnose inflammation before the formation of plaque.
A study done by the scientists have discovered that fat surrounding our heart arteries feels inflammation in the nearby arteries resulting in changes in fat. A new computerized tomography (CT) scan analysis or a diagnostic tool based on the new discovery was developed by the researchers. They named the new imaging metric as CT fat attenuation index (FAI). The FAI will be calculated on the basis of changes in the size of fat cells.
The CT fat attenuation index (FAI) can identify inflammation in the heart arteries of an individual before heart complications appear. It can also identify unstable plaques formed in the arteries. Healthcare professionals can provide aggressive preventive therapies and treatments to those people to prevent future heart attacks. Scientists tested the new procedure with more than 450 cardiac surgery patients. Scientists say further studies are required before moving this innovative procedure into clinical practice.
This procedure is different with the procedure which measures buildup of calcium in blood vessels (coronary artery calcification CAC score). The CAC score measures hardened arteries caused due to plaque buildup, which is irreversible. They may rupture in the future.
Lead researcher of the study was Dr. Charalambos Antoniades, M.D., Ph.D., Associate Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at the University of Oxford, United Kingdom. The study findings were published on July 12, 2017, in the journal Science Translational Medicine. Title of the article was "Detecting human coronary inflammation by imaging perivascular fat."
A study done by the researchers at the King's College, London, United Kingdom shows prevention of fatty buildups in arteries (called as plaque) by boosting dickkopf-related protein 3 (DKK3) levels in an individual. Fatty buildups in arteries is a risk factor for the development of atherosclerosis condition. Atherosclerosis is a risk factor for stroke and heart attack. A simple blood test can measure DKK3 levels in an individual.
Researchers have conducted studies with 574 individuals for over five years period. They measured DKK3 levels from the collected blood samples. Their study found that less likely risk of the development of atherosclerosis and less likely risk of death from stroke or heart attack over a five years period among those individuals who are with higher levels of DKK3 protein. The association between DKK3 levels and atherosclerosis is independent of other risk factors such as cholesterol and blood pressure levels. Authors of the study say their study may lead to the development of new drugs to reduce heart attack and stroke risks.
This study was funded by the British Heart Foundation (BHF). Co-author of the study was Professor Qingbo Xu, Cardiovascular Division, King's College London, United Kingdom. The study findings were published on July 3, 2017, in the journal Circulation. Title of the article was "A Cytokine-like Protein DKK3 Is Atheroprotective."
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Published by Jammi Vasista, Chennai, India.