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NIH grants $1.4 Million to WPI to continue study of arterial plaque

October 27, 2017

The new NIH award will enable the team to extend this research. Combining such techniques as patient-specific, image-based computational modeling, intravascular ultrasound (IVUS), angiography, MRI, and mechanical testing to analyze atherosclerotic coronary plaques, the team aims to zero in on what factors--including the forces from blood flow, pressure, and heart motions--best assess quantitatively which of those plaques are most likely to rupture.

Since 60 percent of all heart attacks and strokes are caused by such ruptures and occur without advanced notice, doctors err on the side of caution and may recommend more surgical remedies than are actually necessary, Tang says. In fact, he notes, only one out of 20 carotid endarterectomies (removal of plaque from an artery) currently performed is likely necessary (in other words, only one plaque would actually rupture).

Currently, the trigger for these surgeries is a high level of arterial stenosis. However, with better diagnostic approaches, the trigger might, instead, be identification of arterial plaque with a high potential to rupture, with plaque morphology, tissue components, and mechanical forces all taken into consideration. By developing better diagnostic tools, Tang and his team hopes to improve plaque assessment techniques for early diagnosis, treatment and prevention of cardiovascular disease.

In addition to Tang, WPI co-investigators on the grant are Kristen L. Billiar, associate professor of bioengineering and tissue engineering, and Joseph Petruccelli, professors of statistics. Jie Zheng, assistant professor of radiology at Washington University's Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology, is principal investigator at WU. Roger Kamm, Germeshausen professor of mechanical engineering and biological engineering at MIT is a consultant on the grant.

Source: Worcester Polytechnic Institute