DEFUSING A TIME BOMB: HEART ATTACK RISK-DETECTION
DEVELOPED AT UH
Ioannis Kakadiaris Provides Clinicians New Assessment
Tool as Part of $500K NSF Grant
HOUSTON, Jan. 18, 2006 –A breakthrough in computational
medicine is helping one University of Houston professor pave the
way to uncover a ticking “time-bomb” in the heart.
Ioannis A. Kakadiaris, an associate professor of computer science
at UH and director of the Computational Biomedicine Laboratory (CBL),
and doctoral student Sean O’Malley are collaborating with
Dr. Morteza Naghavi and other leading cardiologists from the Association
for Eradication of Heart Attack (AEHA) in this research effort.
With cardiovascular disease accounting for twice as many deaths
as all cancers in the United States, this group has developed computer
technology to alert physicians to heart attack risk.
“This ‘time-bomb’ is called ‘vulnerable
plaque,’ and the unaware, healthy-looking person with the
‘bomb’ in his or her heart is the ‘vulnerable
patient,’” Kakadiaris said. “These ‘vulnerable
patients’ bear a very high risk of having a heart attack in
the next 12 months.”
To support this effort to defuse these “time bombs,”
Kakadiaris has been awarded a three-year, $566,350 grant from the
Division of Information and Intelligent Systems of the National
Science Foundation (NSF).
“This is exactly the outcome we had hoped to foster when we
funded this project,” said James C. French, NSF program director
whose support was instrumental for the project to come this far.
“The Science and Engineering Information Integration and Informatics
program at NSF seeks to fund core computer science research in a
domain context that has the potential for high impact in science
and engineering domains. Kakadiaris’ expertise in computer
vision to aid in the identification of vulnerable patients has the
potential for broad impact in health care. I am delighted to see
that his group is achieving that potential.”
The method developed by the CBL takes advantage of the tendency
for vasa vasorum – the small arteries distributed around the
walls of blood vessels – to proliferate around areas of inflammation
in human blood vessels. Using ultrasound inside blood vessels, known
as intravascular ultrasound (IVUS), along with micro- and nano-sized
contrast agents, Kakadiaris’ lab has developed a new software
tool that can generate cross-sectional images of a patient’s
arteries, highlighting areas with dense vasa vasorum and potential
For the first time, this new imaging technology will provide doctors
with the ability to detect “inflamed plaque” that represents
regions of blood vessels prone to future rupture and sudden blockage.
Its early detection is essential in the practice of cardiology in
order to reduce the number of fatalities occurring every year due
to unpredicted heart attacks.
“The case of former President Clinton, who last year unexpectedly
experienced a heart attack and underwent quadruple bypass surgery,
demonstrates that even a former president with access to the best
available medical care can have undiagnosed heart disease,”
Kakadiaris said. “Clinton himself blamed ‘insufficient
vigilance’ and stressed the importance of repeated testing
as a means of heart disease prevention.”
Supporting this line of thinking – now called the “Clinton
Syndrome” – AEHA’s mission is to identify “vulnerable
patients” by advancing the science and practice of heart attack
prevention, detection and treatment.
Additionally, a non-profit initiative sponsored by AEHA, Screening
for Heart Attack Prevention and Education (SHAPE), presents a practice
guideline for doctors to implement public screening of at-risk populations,
calling for men 45 and older and women 55 and older to undergo a
comprehensive vascular health assessment.
“Recent discoveries and major advances in diagnostic and therapeutic
areas have set the stage for translating new science, such as Kakadiaris’
work, into a new practice of preventive cardiology,” said
Naghavi, president of AEHA. “While further studies are warranted,
we are making steady progress toward eradicating heart attack. Considering
the large amounts of data the SHAPE program will produce, there
is an urgent need for computational tools to assist in screening
for the conditions that underlie sudden cardiac events.”
Kakadiaris’ lab is part of the Ultimate IVUS Collaborative
Project at UH, along with a number of other physicians and scientists.
Also involved in these clinical and preclinical studies are Drs.
Manolis Vavuranakis and Christodoulos Stefanadis from the University
of Athens Medical School, Drs. Stephane Carlier and Roxana Mehran
from the Cardiovascular Research Foundation and Columbia University
Medical Center, Erling Falk from Aarhus University in Denmark, Dr.
Craig Hartley from Baylor College of Medicine in the Texas Medical
Center, and Ralph Metcalfe, mechanical engineering professor in
UH’s Cullen College of Engineering.
“Americans suffer approximately 1.5 million heart attacks
annually and about half of them prove fatal,” Kakadiaris said.
“Despite a host of new public health initiatives targeting
heart disease and its aggravating factors, such as diabetes, inadequate
physical activity and obesity, sudden cardiac death is a major concern
with the majority of deaths occurring in apparently healthy people.”
SOURCE: Kakadiaris 713-743-1255; email@example.com
Web page: http://www.cbl.uh.edu/~ioannisk/
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