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Return to New Institute Using Imaging to Find Heart Disease Early Overview

More on New Institute Using Imaging to Find Heart Disease Early

New Institute Using Imaging to Find Heart Disease Early

NEW YORK (Feb 3, 2014)

James K. Min, M.D., Director of the Dalio Institute of Cardiovascular Imaging, has his sights set on identifying patients who may be at risk for heart disease before they are displaying symptoms. To accomplish this, Dr. Min and his colleagues are employing noninvasive imaging tests to identify patients with high-risk, or vulnerable plaques, and treating them early in order to prevent heart disease.

James K. Min, M.D.
James K. Min, M.D.

Doctors now believe that the vulnerable plaque – a fatty plaque with inflamed cells enshrouded by a thin cap – places patients at increased risk for plaque rupture which can then form a clot and cause a heart attack. In fact, the vulnerable plaque may be responsible for causing heart attacks in many patients instead of the traditional clogged artery scenario.

"In the past, we used biomarkers like cholesterol as a marker for risk, but not everyone with elevated cholesterol has heart disease, and vice versa. At the Dalio Institute, our major focus is to identify patients who are at risk for heart disease by examining high-risk plaque and treating it early. Our noninvasive imaging tests can directly visualize the inside of a patient's heart artery. When blockages are identified, we can characterize the risk of those blockages and determine how to effectively treat patients," he said. "We can monitor the effectiveness of therapy of plaque build-up as well," added Dr. Min.

The new Dalio Institute is focused on the role of imaging techniques in cardiovascular disease including computed tomography, magnetic resonance imaging, positron emission tomography, and molecular imaging – where doctors target specific metabolic pathways in patients at risk for heart disease. The team takes a multidisciplinary approach to diagnosing and treating heart disease by including specialists from computer science, engineering, and molecular and cellular biologists. Currently, there are about 30 staff members, with a projected goal of 80 to 100.

Doctors at the new facility are heavily involved in research including through multicenter, international studies. Ongoing research trials range in size from 200 to 50,000 patients. "Historically, there has been a disconnect in research and clinical care. We are trying to translate research findings and directly link them to clinical care. We have efficacious treatments, we just need to identify patients early and reduce risk for vulnerable patients," said Dr. Min.

Another area of interest for doctors at the Dalio Institute is the idea of personalized medicine. "We would like to apply imaging directly to clinical care so that we can offer a personalized approach with proper medications and lifestyle modifications. One of our initiatives is to try to investigate how the mind and heart interact. There is evidence that mental stress advances heart disease," said Dr. Min.

Dr. Min and colleagues are extremely grateful to Raymond T. Dalio, who made a gift of $20 million through his Dalio Foundation in support of the Institute. "Mr. Dalio's gift will enable a truly comprehensive study of vulnerable plaque," said Dr. Min.

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