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Nanobody Imaging Could Predict Heart Risk

April 2, 2012
Written by: , Filed in: Cardiac Imaging, Nuclear Medicine
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Radioactive antibody fragments may allow the prediction of heart attack risk. The fragments, called nanobodies, could be used to detect and image the artherosclerotic plaque deposits that are most vulnerable to rupture, according to a new study in Circulation Research.

A news release from the American Heart Association (AHA), which publishes the journal, notes that most of the 17 million annual cardiovascular deaths worldwide result from ruptured plaque.

Alexis Broisat, PhD, the study’s lead author, explained why the study could constitute a breakthrough:

The detection of vulnerable coronary plaques is a major clinical challenge because it would allow preventive patient management prior to a heart attack. In clinical practice, there is currently no early, reliable, and noninvasive tool allowing such detection.

Dr. Broisat is a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Grenoble in France. He was quoted in the AHA news release.

The nanobodies were designed to attach to vascular cell adhesion molecule-1 (VCAM1) particles in plaque. VCAM1 plays a major role in inflammation, and inflammation is a significant sign that a plaque deposit may rupture.

The researchers injected the nanobodies into the bloodstreams of mice. The nanobodies attached to tissues expressing VCAM1. SPECT imaging then detected the nanobodies, revealing plaques in the mice’s aortic arches.

The study concludes:

Our results confirm that nanobodies constitute a promising new class of radiotracers with great potential for noninvasive nuclear imaging.

An accompanying editorial in Circulation Research concurs, saying: “The early detection of trouble looming ahead could trigger steps for intervention, possibly involving the aggressive modulation of risk factors. Imaging might even help to define individual risk and to guide appropriate local therapy.”

However, the editorial also cautions: “Although experimental studies like that of Broisat et al serve as ‘proof of principle,’ translation to humans will require overcoming barriers, including toxicology studies and the production of clinical-grade materials.”

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Related seminar: Cardiovascular & Pulmonary Imaging

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