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A Light-Year Advance in Examining Arteries

A Light-Year Advance in Examining Arteries
Team investigates new way to view harmful fatty deposits

August 2006

by Will Sansom

Marc D. Feldman, M.D., associate professor at the Health Science Center, and Thomas E. Milner, Ph.D., of the U.T. Austin School of Engineering, are literally shedding light on a new way to troubleshoot arterial plaques. A better method of imaging these plaques could dramatically reduce the number of sudden deaths from strokes and heart attacks precipitated by plaque ruptures.

Dr. Feldman, an interventional cardiologist, is exploring use of a light-based imaging technique called optical coherence tomography (OCT) to view the thickness and topography of arterial plaques. "Conventional sound-based imaging techniques, MRI and multi-slice CT are not able to provide this level of detail," Dr. Feldman said. "Therefore, it is not possible to tell whether a plaque is a candidate for rupture."

CardioSpectra, a 2-year-old company founded by Drs. Feldman and Milner, was created to develop a catheter system to employ OCT imaging within arteries. The company has hired four engineers who have constructed a prototype of the OCT catheter system. The next step is miniaturization.

CardioSpectra recently received a grant of $1.35 million from the Texas Emerging Technology Fund toward the project, and Dr. Feldman received a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs MERIT grant of $400,000.

OCT imaging is being studied for other applications, including diagnosis of eye diseases. Dr. Milner, a biomedical engineer, received a $1 million grant from the National Eye Institute for this purpose.

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