Imaging of inflammation

Imaging of inflammation for the detection of atheroslcerosis

Investigators: Eric Meester, Kim van der Heiden, Monique Bernsen, Boudewijn Krenning, Marion de Jong


Atherosclerosis is a lipid-and inflammation driven disease which leads to plaque formation in the arteries. Through a variety of factors, such plaques may eventually rupture, possibly leading to a myocardial infarction or stroke. Currently, a non-invasive imaging tool to detect small sized, rupture prone plaques is lacking, which is especially problematic in the coronary arteries. We also lack a method to evaluate the treatment effect of drugs prescribed to treat atherosclerosis (such as statins), as present day methods give an indirect measure of treatment effect via cholesterol levels.


Inflammation is crucial in the onset and progression of atherosclerosis, and macrophages are the most prevalent inflammatory cell in the plaque. Moreover, macrophage accumulation in the plaque is considered a crucial factor in the likelihood of plaque rupture. The aim of this preclinical study therefore, is to evaluate existing and novel SPECT and PET tracers on their capability to visualize macrophages in plaques, and as such detect atherosclerotic plaques. Furthermore, we want to examine if we can differentiate between plaques which have a high or low risk of rupture.


Results of this study will not only provide a tool for clinicians  to diagnose and assess atherosclerotic plaques, they will also yield fundamental knowledge about macrophage dynamics within plaques at different stages of plaque progression/regression.