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Sodium Fluoride PET identifies active unstable plaques

last modified Jul 10, 2015 04:50 PM

New research led by Dr Anthony Davenport and Dr James Rudd shows that unstable plaques in arteries can be reliably identified using sodium fluoride and PET/CT scanning. The technique could help in the early diagnosis of high-risk patients and in the development of new therapeutics.

Atherosclerosis – hardening of the arteries – is a potentially serious condition where arteries become clogged by a build-up of fatty deposits known as plaques. One of the key constituents in these deposits is calcium. Sometimes pieces of a calcified plaque can break away and if the affected artery supplies the brain or heart with blood, this can lead to stroke or heart attack.

To identify unstable plaques, the researchers injected patients with sodium fluoride that had been tagged with a tiny amount of a radioactive tracer. Using PET/CT scanning technique, the researchers were able to track the progress of the tracer as it moved around the body.

Following their sodium fluoride scans, the patients had surgery to remove calcified plaques and imaged the extracted tissue at higher resolution using a laboratory PET/CT scanner and an electron microscope. This confirmed that the radiotracer accumulates in areas of active, unstable calcification whilst avoiding surrounding tissue.

This study was supported by the Wellcome Trust, the British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK, and the Cambridge NIHR Biomedical Research Centre.

For more information, please follow the links to the University of Cambridge and Nature Communications.

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