Just as knowing your enemy gives you an edge, advances in medical imaging are allowing scientists and doctors to see more clearly into the development of disease, and so respond more effectively. One particular ambition is to detect the build-up of fatty plaques along the walls of arteries, so as to improve the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease. Fat molecules, or lipids, can be identified using ultrasound signals that pick out specific chemical bonds. Combining this technology with a fast-pulsing laser has recently enabled researchers to generate highly accurate three-dimensional images from within blood vessels: pictured is a cross-section of an artery, with lipid deposits highlighted in green. In addition, beyond the image itself, the technique provides information about the nature of the plaque, and how likely it is to rupture and cause disease, making it a potentially powerful diagnostic tool for patients at risk of cardiovascular disease.
Written by Emmanuelle Briolat
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