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Ultrasound could improve early detection of vascular diseases

Ultrasound conducted before a patient develops symptoms could improve early detection of diseases in blood vessels, Leicester researchers have shown.

In a paper published in the journal Ultrasound, the team of researchers, led by the University of Leicester’s College of Life Sciences working with researchers from Leicester’s Hospitals, conducted longitudinal ultrasound studies of two mouse models of vascular disease - aortic aneurysm and atherosclerosis (AAA) - in order to track disease progression.

As part of the study, mice were anaesthetised and had their physiological condition closely monitored during ultrasound imaging. Ultrasound imaging is routinely used for diagnosis and monitoring of a wide range of diseases, including AAA, and can provide fast, real-time information on the ability of arteries to expand and contract with cardiac pulsation and relaxation, often referred to as arterial distension.

Analysis performed by the first author on the paper, Justyna Janus from the University of Leicester, revealed changes in the ability of blood vessels in the mice to pulsate as the disease state worsened, showing how ultrasound scanning can potentially result in early detection of reduced vascular function.

Dr Mike Kelly, Preclinical Imaging Manager from the University of Leicester, said: “Our research shows that both lifestyle (dietary) and genetic factors can lead to increased risk of vascular disease. Our study also suggests that the ultrasound methods we employed can detect early changes in blood vessel function that can serve as a marker for detection of disease."

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