Non-FDG imaging of atherosclerosis: Will imaging of MMPs assess plaque vulnerability?
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- Hermann, S., Starsichova, A., Waschkau, B. et al. J. Nucl. Cardiol. (2012) 19: 609. doi:10.1007/s12350-012-9553-6
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Acute ruptures of atherosclerotic plaques with subsequent occlusion account for the vast majority of clinical events such as myocardial infarction or stroke. New imaging approaches focusing on the visualization of inflammation in the vessel wall could emerge as tools for individualized risk assessment and prevention of events. To this end, PET employing 18F-fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG) has recently been introduced for the first clinical trials. Although this approach nicely visualizes plaques inflammation questions remain with respect to if and how this inflammatory signal can be employed for predicting individual plaque rupture. Molecular imaging of proteases such as matrix-metalloproteinases (MMPs) involved in several steps in plaque progression driving plaques into vulnerable, rupture-prone states seems a promising alternative approach. This review introduces and discusses the vulnerable plaque concept, animal models with human-like plaque ruptures and the potential of a FDG versus a non-FDG MMP-targeted strategy to image rupture-prone plaques.