Zurich - A team from the University of Zürich and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich have succeeded in significantly strengthening the signal of metabolic molecules. In so doing, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) makes details central to cardiovascular diseases visible for the first time.

Researchers from the University of Zurich (UZH) and Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) have developed an innovative method for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The researchers have been able to increase the signal of metabolic molecules, which are invisible under conventional MRI processes, by a factor of 25,000. As a result, the molecules are made visible. The corresponding study was recently published in the “Journal of the American College of Cardiology”.

According to a press release from UZH, it is now possible to non-invasively demonstrate in real time how the body metabolizes nutrients. The team adapted their method to imaging the heart. It indicates metabolic activity that can be an early sign of heart disease. As an example, the press release mentions that the heart normally uses fat as a source of energy. If there is a lack of oxygen, the heart immediately switches to metabolizing sugar. With the new method, a lack of oxygen can be detected at an early stage in the MRT image. “This would pave the way toward treating the causes of cardiovascular diseases, and not just their effects”, UZH writes in the press release. What happens before and after a heart attack can also be mapped in this way.

According to Robert Manka, Director of Cardiac MRI at the Heart Center of University Hospital Zurich (USZ), this procedure could enable more tailored therapies in the future. However, the benefits must first be proven in clinical trials. Manka also hopes it will help doctors to understand why some people suffer far greater impairments than others after a heart attack. “Metabolism probably plays a role in this, but we don’t know it yet. In the future, we’ll be able to see what’s really going on in the heart muscle and its cells”, Manka explains.

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