A new device to help clinicians better diagnose cardiovascular disease (CVD), has received £1.6 million funding from Innovate UK to be developed.
CVD remains a leading cause of mortality worldwide and involves the formation of ‘plaques’ in the artery wall, made up of fat, cholesterol, calcium, and other substances found in the blood.
Over time the plaques can narrow the arteries, or can rupture and cause abrupt blockage, resulting in a heart attack. Both the gradual narrowing of the arteries or a sudden rupture are driven by a process of inflammation.
One common method for diagnosing CVD is the use of cardiac imaging tests, such as CT and cardiac MRI scans, to help to detect the narrowing of arteries.
However, despite inflammation being recognised as a key factor in CVD, to date it has not been possible to image CVD related inflammation in routine clinical practice, with most heart imaging tests limited in focus on the narrowing of coronary arteries.
This is where the new device, developed by the medical devices company, Caristo Diagnostics, comes in.
The device will measure inflammation and predict the risk of future heart attacks by analysing images from regular coronary CT angiography (CCTA). It will specifically measure a biomarker, known as the Fat Attenuation Index (FAI), which can be used to identify 'at-risk' plaques at the earliest stages of development.
Elevated levels of FAI have already been shown in a previous study to be associated with a 5-fold increased risk of future cardiac death for patients with abnormal levels.
With the new device FAI can be combined with other known risk factors and imaging characteristics, to provide a greater level of insight into disease progression compared to existing biomarkers.
Dr Ed Nicol, consultant cardiologist at the Trust, will be leading on the study.
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