Insights into the etiology of stroke and myocardial infarction suggest that rupture of unstable atherosclerotic plaque is the precipitating event. Clinicians lack tools to detect lesion instability early enough to intervene, and are often left to manage patients empirically, or worse, after plaque rupture. Noninvasive imaging of the molecular events signaling prerupture plaque progression has the potential to reduce the morbidity and mortality associated with myocardial infarction and stroke by allowing early intervention. Here, we demonstrate proof-of-principle in vivo molecular imaging of C-type natriuretic peptide receptor in focal atherosclerotic lesions in the femoral arteries of New Zealand white rabbits using a custom built fiberbased, fluorescence molecular tomography (FMT) system. Longitudinal imaging showed changes in the fluorescence signal intensity as the plaque progressed in the air-desiccated vessel compared to the uninjured vessel, which was validated by ex vivo tissue studies. In summary, we demonstrate the potential of FMT for noninvasive detection of molecular events leading to unstable lesions heralding plaque rupture.
- fluorescence molecular tomography
- natriuretic peptide receptor
- near-infrared fluorescence
- unstable plaque