Microbubbles may detect heart disease early

U. MISSOURI (US) — Targeted microbubbles may offer a less invasive way to detect heart disease at an early stage.

In a study published in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, researchers used targeted microbubbles to detect artery inflammation in pigs.

Isabelle Masseau, assistant teaching professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Missouri, says the procedure may help detect heart disease or who are at risk for strokes before those ailments become too serious by monitoring artery inflammation, as that is an early warning sign of health problems. She says this procedure may also help monitor the effectiveness of artery inflammation treatments.

“It can be very difficult to detect early signs of heart disease, especially without the use of invasive procedures,” says Masseau.


“Doctors often have to wait until serious symptoms occur, such as chest pain or heart attacks, before they are aware of a problem, and many times that is too late. Targeted microbubbles have the potential to be able to detect early signs of heart disease very non-invasively.”

Early signs of heart disease include inflammation on the insides of arteries, which leads to plaque buildup that could eventually result in heart attacks.

Masseau was able to attach specific antibodies to tiny bubbles and then inject those bubbles into pigs with heart disease. The antibodies were able to seek out the inflammation in the pigs’ arteries and attach themselves, along with the microbubbles, to the inflammatory sites.

Then, using an ultrasound machine, she was able to detect the targeted microbubbles that had gathered in the arteries of pigs. She says this is the first time the procedure has been successful in large animals.

“Because this procedure was successful in pigs, it also could potentially be reproduced in humans as well,” Masseau says. “While it would still be a few years away, injecting targeted microbubbles into a human and then scanning them with an ultrasound would be a very simple procedure and could potentially help save lives.”

Another part of Masseau’s research involved studying pigs to observe the effects exercise has on artery inflammation. Before Masseau detected inflammation in the pigs using the targeted microbubbles, she submitted them to cardio exercise and measured its effect.

Surprisingly, the exercise did not have any effect on reducing the arterial inflammation. Masseau says this does not mean that exercise is not important for heart health.

The early-stage results of this research are promising. If additional studies, including animal studies, are successful within the next few years, MU officials will request authority from the federal government to begin human trials.

Source: University of Missouri