New scanning strategy could help develop heart disease treatments

December 12, 2011, University of Edinburgh

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."

Explore further: Blood pressure drugs may offer benefits in valvular heart disease

Related Stories

Blood pressure drugs may offer benefits in valvular heart disease

August 1, 2011
Drugs used to treat blood pressure could offer significant benefits to patients with one of the most common forms of valvular heart disease, new research at the University of Dundee and NHS Tayside has revealed.

Recommended for you

Heart researchers develop a new, promising imaging technique for cardiac arrhythmias

February 22, 2018
Every five minutes in Germany alone, a person dies of sudden cardiac arrest or fibrillation, the most common cause of death worldwide. This is partly due to the fact that doctors still do not fully understand exactly what ...

Scientists use color-coded tags to discover how heart cells develop

February 22, 2018
UCLA researchers used fluorescent colored proteins to trace how cardiomyocytes—cells in heart muscle that enable it to pump blood—are produced in mouse embryos. The findings could eventually lead to methods for regenerating ...

'Beetroot pill' could help save patients from kidney failure after heart X-ray

February 22, 2018
Beetroot may reduce the risk of kidney failure in patients having a heart x-ray, according to research led by Queen Mary University of London.

Women once considered low risk for heart disease show evidence of previous heart attack scars

February 20, 2018
Women who complain about chest pain often are reassured by their doctors that there is no reason to worry because their angiograms show that the women don't have blockages in the major heart arteries, a primary cause of heart ...

Can your cardiac device be hacked?

February 20, 2018
Medical devices, including cardiovascular implantable electronic devices could be at risk for hacking. In a paper publishing online today in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, the American College of Cardiology's ...

Resolvin D-1 limits kidney damage after heart attacks

February 20, 2018
A heart attack triggers an acute inflammatory response at the damaged portion of the heart's left ventricle. If this acute inflammation lingers, it can lead to stretching of the ventricle and heart failure. The inflammation ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.