Near-infrared light identifies patients at risk for heart attack, stroke

Identifying high-risk heart attack and stroke patients allows physicians to administer early treatment to prevent serious events, but current methods are unable to pinpoint some symptoms. In a new study published in Nature Communications, researchers outlined how near-infrared light can identify high-risk arterial plaques.

Researchers utilized the increased wavelength of near-infrared light to selectively identify the high-risk plague that could lead to blood clots, heart attacks and strokes.

"What we have done uses innovative, materials-based techniques to assist in the development of new diagnostic tools," explained Tara Schiller from the International Institute for Nanocomposites Manufacturing at WMG, University of Warwick. "This could help us to detect the threat of an imminent heart attack and result in a decrease of the mortality rates.”

Researchers hope to compare the near-infrared wavelengths with current imaging techniques to investigate unstable fatty arterial plague. Monitoring the effectiveness of drugs used to prevent heart attacks and strokes will also be studied in the future.

"Despite the millions of dollars spent each year particularly on heart imaging, there still isn't a reliable way of identifying these unstable plaques," said Karlheinz Peter. "We realized when we shine a light in the near-infrared wavelength range, that this light is reflected at a certain wavelength. So in a way we can use laser light to shine up the plaques that are unstable, and it's very characteristic.”