German institutions and companies to study early detection of heart attack risk

The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research is funding a research project studying a new diagnostic procedure, called “Nano-Ag”, for the early detection of the risk for cardiac infarction.

The project will be conducted by well-known German companies and renowned academic institutes. Siemens Medical Solutions leads the consortium which includes partners Schering AG, Ferropharm, MeVis gGmbH, Charité Berlin, The German Cancer Research Institute of Heidelberg, and the Radiology Department of Freiburg University. The project is jointly funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research’s initiative “NanoforLife” and industry.

The objective of this research initiative is to establish a diagnostic procedure for the early detection of the risk for cardiac infarction. For this purpose, a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) contrast agent based on nanoscale iron oxide particles and corresponding MRI procedure are being developed. Its subsequent application should operate in the following manner: after the contrast agent is injected it selectively enriches the affected regions. Using modern imaging procedures such as MRI, the enriched contrast agent and the source of the potential danger can be visualized.

Over the past few years there has been increasing evidence to indicate that inflamed changes to the vascular wall, called vulnerable plaque, are primarily responsible for the acute vascular occlusions that occur with myocardial infarction. Definite verification of this plaque is not possible using current imaging techniques. The chemical modification of super paramagnetic iron oxide particles (VSOP= very small superparamagnetic iron oxide particle) is expected to provide new opportunities for non-invasive verification of this pathology. Various tests will be used to determine whether this VSOP under development is suitable as contrast agent for MRI diagnostics.

In addition to the VSOP development, MRI measurement procedures have to be adapted to the specialised requirements of cardiac imaging, for example, in terms of temporal and spatial resolution. In this case, primarily clinical MRI systems currently in the development phase will be used to accelerate the subsequent transfer of these methods to the clinical routine. Development is taking place in a, to date, unique interdisciplinary consortium comprising industry, medium-sized companies, and leading international academic centres.

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