Ioannis Kakadiaris -- an associate professor of computer science at UH and director of the Computational Biomedicine Laboratory -- along with doctoral student Sean O'Malley, is collaborating with cardiologists from the Association for Eradication of Heart Attack in the research effort.
Kakadiaris said the technology will detect "vulnerable plaque" in apparently healthy individuals. The plaque places such patients at high risk of experiencing a heart attack within a year, said Kakadiaris.
The method developed by the CBL takes advantage of the tendency for vasa vasorum -- the small arteries distributed in the walls of blood vessels -- to proliferate around areas of inflammation.
Using intravascular ultrasound, Kakadiaris' lab developed a software tool that generates cross-sectional images of a patient's arteries, detecting areas with dense vasa vasorum and potential inflammation.
The researchers say such early detection is essential in reducing the number of heart attack deaths among people with no signs of heart attack risk.
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