London researchers discover new method of diagnosing heart disease

(File photo courtesy of © Can Stock Photo / Eraxion)

Researchers in London have uncovered a new, non-invasive method to accurately detect heart disease in patients.

Scientists from Lawson Health Research Institute and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center have published a study that shows magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can be used to measure how the heart uses oxygen and if there is reduced blood flow to the heart muscle.

Normally, diagnostic tests to detect heart disease require the injection of radioactive chemicals or contrast agents, which come with small associated risks.

“This new method, cardiac functional MRI [cfMRI], does not require needles or chemicals being injected into the body,” said Dr. Frank Prato, assistant director for imaging with Lawson. “It eliminates the existing risks and can be used on all patients.”

The new method could also be used with the same patient several times to better select the right treatment and find out early on if it is working. As well, researchers noted the possibilities of cfMRI being used to study the effects of a heart attack or damages to the heart during cancer treatment.

“With this new window into how the heart works, we have a lot to explore when it comes to the role of oxygen in health and disease,” said Dr. Prato. “Using MRI will not only be safer than present methods but also provide more detailed information and much earlier on in the disease process.”

Following clinical trials, Dr. Prato said he expects the cfMRI method being used with patients within a few years.

Researchers from the University of California, King’s College in the United Kingdom, the University Health Network and the University of Toronto, Siemens Healthineers, and the University of Edinburgh in the United Kingdom, also contributed to the study. The team’s research is published in Science Translational Medicine.