8 February 2013

Fiber-based spectroscopy - a key to individual treatment of vascular diseases

Scientists from the Institute of Photonic Technology (IPHT) explore a method for spectroscopic characterization of the biochemical composition of arteriosclerotic plaques in vessels. With the latest spectroscopic methods and modern fiber technology future patients could be examined carefully to trace biochemical changes in their blood vessel walls.

Whether the plaques must be treated depends on their biochemical composition. Stable plaques for example have a smaller priority for treatment. Therefore it is important for each patient to determine which types of deposit are present in his vessels, e.g. cholesterol, fatty acids and calcium. Today's clinical methods provide morphological information. However, the biochemical composition of the individual plaques remains unknown.

The scientist Dr. Christian Matthäus, Christoph Krafft and Sebastian Dochow along with the fiber technology group IPHT and the cardiologist Prof. Bernhard Brehm (Jena University Hospital / Catholic Hospital Koblenz) have now grouped up to close this diagnostic gap. Their method of choice is a fiber Raman spectroscopic probe. "The aim is to develop a probe that is minimally invasive and puts a minimum of strain on the patient. The very thin fiber optic probe has to be very flexible so that it can be introduced directly into the arteries, "says Matthäus. Here the material scientific and technological expertise of IPHT of manufacturing optical fibers comes into effect.

The detection of the biochemical composition of atherosclerotic plaques is done with a laser-spectroscopic method. It provides a molecular fingerprint of the examined tissue. Thereby it makes pathological lesions visible and identifies deposits such as cholesterol or calcium problems. The method has already been successfully tested in pilot projects. Currently the IPHT scientists together with Prof. Brehm work on further miniaturization and optimization of the measuring system.

Atherosclerosis and its consecutive symptoms are the leading causes of death in Western industrialized nations. The progressive disease leads to changes in the blood vessel walls. Connective tissue proliferation hardens and thickens the blood vessels. This leads to narrowing and decreasing resilience of the veins. Heart attack or stroke may be the consequence. Early detection of the exact causes and individually tailored treatment for the patients is particularly important to ensure a successful healing.

By linking the topics "biophotonics" and "fiber optics", the IPHT explores novel scientific and technical solutions in key areas such as bioanalytics and biomedical diagnostics, contributing to individualized treatment of atherosclerosis. Christian Matthew was already successful at this year's Annual Meeting of the German Society for Biomedical Engineering (DGBMT). His presentation of the new method was awarded the prize of 1000 Euros Technology Award of the city of Jena. Together with PhD student Annika Lattermann he also received the poster prize at the annual meeting of the German Society for Atherosclerosis Research (DGAF).

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