Molecular Magnetic Resonance Imaging for the Detection of Vulnerable Plaques
Is It Possible?
Recent advances in molecular resonance imaging of atherosclerosis enable to visualize atherosclerotic plaques in vivo using molecular targeted contrast agents. This offers opportunities to study atherosclerosis development and plaque vulnerability noninvasively. In this review, we discuss MRI contrast agents targeted toward atherosclerotic plaques and illustrate how these new imaging platforms could assist in our understanding of atherogenesis and atheroprogression. In particular, we highlight the challenges and limitations of the different contrast agents and hurdles for clinical application. We describe the most promising existing compounds to detect atherosclerosis and plaque vulnerability. Of particular interest are the fibrin-targeted compounds that detect thrombi and, furthermore, the contrast agents targeted to integrins that allow to visualize plaque neovascularization. Moreover, vascular cell adhesion molecule 1–targeted iron oxides seem promising for early detection of atherosclerosis. These targeted MRI contrast agents, however promising and well characterized in (pre)clinical models, lack specificity for plaque vulnerability.
- Received July 16, 2012.
- Accepted January 13, 2013.
- © 2013 American Heart Association, Inc.