Molecular and microstructural imaging in arteries—a new tool to study and prevent heart attacks

Years funded:
2019 - 2021

Cardiovascular disease, e.g., heart attack, is the leading cause of deaths in Australia and worldwide. Each year, more than 20 million people experience heart attacks worldwide. Most heart attacks are caused by thrombotic occlusions of high-risk atherosclerotic plaques in coronary arteries. 

Although significant progress has been made in cardiovascular research, understanding of atherosclerotic plaque progression is still insufficient, and the accurate diagnosis of high-risk plaques before they are life-threatening remains a grand challenge. The fact that we don’t know when and how a plaque becomes high-risk is due to the lack of tools that provide microscopic and molecular insights into plaque formation over time.

This project aims to deliver a new multimodal high-resolution imaging tool that can directly study high-risk plaques in living organisms, in real-time, enabling molecular and microstructural insights into the development of plaques. In this project, the new tool will be used to assess plaques in commonly-used preclinical animal models and in dissected human arteries. It will answer fundamental questions of how plaques evolve, how they cause heart attacks, and how they respond to different forms of treatment. This project will also provide a pathway for the clinical translation of this novel tool and holds hope to improve health outcomes by providing cardiologists with better ways to accurately diagnose and manage high-risk plaques and prevent heart attacks

Researcher Profile

Dr Jiawen Li

Institute: The University of Adelaide
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