New scanning strategy could help develop heart disease treatments

Patients with life-threatening heart valve disease could be helped with alternative scanning techniques that provide greater insight into the condition.

Researchers from the University of Edinburgh used an imaging technique that could help predict which patients will need to replace their heart valves, and improve treatments to prevent the disease.

The narrowing and hardening of the heart's – a common condition known as aortic stenosis – affects 1 in 20 people over 65 in the UK and is on the increase due to an ageing population. The study, funded by the British Heart Foundation (BHF), trialled the use of positron emission tomography (PET) scans among patients with the condition.

The scans give a much clearer insight into the process that causes aortic stenosis than ultrasound scans, which are currently used for diagnosis. They involve using tracer chemicals, which highlight molecular changes within the body.

Dr Marc Dweck, of the University of Edinburgh's Clinical Research Imaging Centre, said: "Currently the only form of treatment is heart surgery which is not necessarily ideal as the majority of patients are over 65. These scans will help us better understand what is happening to the heart valves, and hopefully help us to halt the processes causing the narrowing. It may also allow us to predict which patients are likely to need an operation and when this might occur."

The scans showed that inflammation, possibly related to fatty deposits, was important in establishing the very early stages of the disease. However, after this initial trigger subsequent narrowing was instead mainly due to the build-up of calcium deposits in the valve.

The use of the PET scans mean that scientists can now analyse what is happening to earlier in the disease process, when treatments are more likely to be effective. The study has been published in the journal Circulation.

Dr Shannon Amoils, Research Advisor at the BHF, said: "Aortic stenosis is the most common reason for having a valve operation in the UK. It would be much better for patients if we could either prevent the condition or treat it with a drug at an early stage. But the fact is that there are currently no medicines for the condition, and no accurate way of predicting how quickly it will progress.

"We're delighted to have been able to fund this study, which has used state-of-the-art imaging technology to reveal clues about the biology underlying aortic stenosis and how it progresses. The researchers have shown that calcification, or 'hardening', of the aortic valve may be the most important process underlying its progressive narrowing. This could explain why attempts to treat patients by targeting the inflammation in the valve have not worked, and it offers hope that a change of strategy —targeting the calcification process— might prove more successful."

Provided by University of Edinburgh

not rated yet
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Inflammation behind heart valve disease

Mar 15, 2011

Research from Karolinska Institutet in Sweden shows, that a specific inflammatory factor may be important in the development of the heart valve disease aortic stenosis. The results suggest that anti-inflammatory medication ...

Major discovery in the treatment of aortic valve stenosis

Apr 18, 2008

A team of scientists from the Université de Montréal and the Montreal Heart Institute Research Centre, led by Dr. Jean-Claude Tardif, has completed an important study that show how a new type of medication can lead to an ...

'Healthy' sterols may pose health risk

Jul 14, 2008

Plant sterols have been touted as an effective way to lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease. However, a research study in the July JLR has uncovered that these compounds do have their own risks, as they can ...

Heart valves implanted without open-heart surgery

Jan 07, 2009

An innovative approach for implanting a new aortic heart valve without open-heart surgery is being offered to patients at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center. Known as the PARTNER (Placement of ...

Recommended for you

ASHG: MI without substantial CAD is minimally heritable

11 hours ago

(HealthDay)—The presence of myocardial infarction (MI) without substantial coronary artery disease (CAD) is not familial, according to a study presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of ...

New treatment for inherited cholesterol

16 hours ago

At the London Olympics in 2012, South African swimmer Cameron van den Burgh dedicated his world record-breaking win in the 100m breast stroke to one of his biggest rivals and closest friends, Alexander Dale ...

Alternate approach to traditional CPR saves lives

23 hours ago

A new study shows that survival and neurological outcomes for patients in cardiac arrest can be improved by adding extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) when performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). The study ...

User comments