Glowing Probe Could Diagnose Cardiovascular Disease Earlier
Researchers have created a probe that glows when it detects an enzyme associated with issues that can lead to blood clots and strokes.
The team of researchers from Imperial College London demonstrated that their probe quickly and accurately detects the enzyme in modified E. Coli cells.
They are now expanding this proof-of-concept study, that was published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society and funded by us, with the hope of creating rapid tests for cardiovascular problems and a new way to track long-term conditions.
The build-up of plaque in the arteries – known as atherosclerosis – can lead to coronary artery disease and stroke. As atherosclerosis progresses, intraplaque haemorrhages (IPHs) can occur when portions of the plaque break away from the artery walls. These events can lead to the formation of more vulnerable plaques and blood clots, restricting blood flow to the heart and the brain and potentially leading to chronic diseases or events like strokes.
Detecting IPHs and their impacts would therefore provide a warning system and allow early diagnosis of vascular conditions. The research team designed a chemical probe that can detect rises in levels of an enzyme that accompanies IPHs and even plaque instabilities that precede IPHs.
Study co-lead Dr Joe Boyle said: “Ultimately, these probes could provide the basis for diagnostic tests at the GP, ambulances or in hospitals for quick identification of cardiovascular diseases. The probes could also provide real-time analysis of the underpinning biological processes involved in vascular disease, providing new insights and potentially new ways to track the progress of chronic disease.”
The team’s probe works by detecting an enzyme that is released in large quantities during IPHs, called heme oxygenase-1 (HO-1). When the probe comes into contact with HO-1, it leads to a build-up of fluorescent molecules.
This build-up causes an increase in the fluorescence intensity of the probe that can be detected using spectroscopy. In tests using modified E. coli cells containing human HO-1, the team detected a six-fold increase in the fluorescence of the probe.
Professor James Leiper, BHF Associate Medical Director, said: “Current methods to detect IPH rely on hospital-based imaging techniques that are both time consuming and expensive. The current technology aims to produce a fast and sensitive diagnostic test that can be used at the time that a patient first presents with symptoms to allow early detection of IPH. Use of such a test would allow for more rapid treatment and improved outcomes for patients suffering from IPH.”
This study was published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society and is available to read online.