3D imaging of blood vessels could shed new light on cardiovascular disease

Vessel plaques in 3D

A vessel blockage reconstructed in three dimensions.

Cardiovascular disease is often the result of blood vessels becoming clogged by plaques-buildups of fat, calcium, and other substances that may restrict blood flow. Not every plaque is created equal, however; some are more likely to induce a heart attack or stroke than others.

Now a new three-dimensional imaging technique developed in the lab of Paul Cohen, Rockefeller’s Albert Resnick, M.D., Assistant Professor, might make it possible to reliably monitor the shape and growth of plaques, and identify those that lead to these devastating events. The work, published in Circulation Research, enables researchers to construct a comprehensive image of blockages and other vascular injuries, and may ultimately translate into novel therapies for cardiovascular disease.

Cohen, along with Tobias Becher, Instructor in Clinical Investigation, and colleagues at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, adapted a technique originally developed in Cohen’s lab to visualize fat tissue for blood-vessel imaging. They studied several diseased vascular tissues, and generated 3D reconstructions that precisely reveal plaque geometry and position, providing new insight into how the plaques form and why they become dangerous.

“Up to this point we’ve only been able to study blood vessels in two dimensions,” says Cohen. “This work provides an entirely new approach for observing and understanding the abnormalities in our blood vessels that lead to disease.”

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