Researchers at the New York Institute of Technology are closing in on a new way of measuring atherosclerosis – a hardening of the arteries that serves as an early warning of deadly heart diseases.
In concert with an individual’s metabolic profile and traditional risk factors such as race, age and gender, atherosclerosis has long been seen as a strong indicator of coronary artery disease. But to date, there’s been no simple way of diagnosing atherosclerosis or monitoring its response to various treatments.
Now, researchers from the College of Osteopathic Medicine on NYIT’s Old Westbury campus have determined that diagnosing atherosclerosis in easily accessible peripheral arteries may be useful for assessing a patient’s risk for ischemic cardiovascular disease.
While previous research had primarily examined peripheral arteries using ultrasound, the NYIT researchers – led by associate anatomy professors Brian Beatty and Bennett Futterman – turned to histopathology, the study of changes in tissue caused by disease, to more accurately grade atherosclerosis development.
Their findings suggested a new way of measuring systemic atherosclerosis through the radial artery, a major forearm artery that continues the brachial artery, which is the arm’s main blood vessel.
This easier method of monitoring atherosclerosis could lead to better assessment of a patient’s coronary risks.
The faculty researchers, along with third-year medical student Christopher Hoehmann, studied the arteries of 48 cadavers via histopathology, confirming and expanding correlations among the arteries and comparing them to other arteries that “may associate with ischemic diseases,” according to NYIT.
The study demonstrated that the radial artery exhibited a “positive correlation between both the pathologic left coronary and bifurcation of the carotid arteries.” In laymen’s terms: Their work suggested a clinically accessible location that could better gauge a patient’s coronary-disease risk factors through ultrasound monitoring.
Their findings were published in late March in the medical journal The Anatomical Record, in the literal-titled paper, “Peripheral Arteries May Be Reliable Indicators of Coronary Vascular Disease.”
The researchers are now lobbying for further studies to evaluate the clinical utility of radial artery ultrasonography to assess cardiovascular risks.
While their work represents merely a preliminary step toward earlier and better diagnoses of coronary artery diseases, the researchers see it as another strong example of the potential of pure laboratory research – in this case funded internally through the College of Osteopathic Medicine’s Summer Research Program.
“It is very gratifying to combine the work perspectives of an analytical anatomist with those of a physician and a medical student to leverage synergies and discover outcomes that can be applied in a clinical setting,” Beatty said in a statement.