Can we use MRI to identify arteries at most risk from plaque formation?

Lead Researcher: Dr Paul Bonnitcha

Hardening of the arteries and the formation of fatty plaques lining them are major contributors to strokes, heart attacks and peripheral vascular disease. Currently there is no way of knowing which plaques are most likely to rupture and cause problems. Recent findings indicate that plaque instability may be related to low oxygen levels within them, so a key aim of Dr Bonnitcha’s research is to develop ways to detect these vulnerable plaques.

This past year he has successfully synthesised two sets of compounds that act as ‘on-off’ magnetic (MRI) switches to detect low oxygen concentrations which are commonly associated with unstable plaques. He is currently doing work in cellular and biological models to see identify whether different metal agent behaviours are maintained in more complex systems.

Dr Bonnitcha’s research has been presented at numerous conferences and was recently published in the Royal Society of Chemistry Advances.  He has also been permitted to attend the Integrated Medical Imaging in Cardiovascular Diseases Conference in Vienna. The next step is to publish biological data from his second round of compounds.