Disruption of vulnerable atherosclerotic plaques often leads to myocardial infarction and stroke, the leading causes of morbidity and mortality in the United States. A diagnostic method that detects high-risk atherosclerotic plaques at early stages could prevent these sequelae. The abundance of immune cells in the arterial wall, especially inflammatory Ly-6Chi monocytes and foamy macrophages, is indicative of plaque? inflammation, and may be associated with plaque vulnerability. Hence, we sought to develop a new method that specifically targets these immune cells to offer clinically-relevant diagnostic information about cardiovascular disease. We combine ultra-selective nanoparticle targeting of Ly-6Chi monocytes and foamy macrophages with clinically-viable photoacoustic imaging (PAI) in order to precisely and specifically image inflamed plaques ex vivo in a mouse model that mimics human vulnerable plaques histopathologically. Within the plaques, high-dimensional single-cell flow cytometry (13-parameter) showed that our nanoparticles were almost-exclusively taken up by the Ly-6Chi monocytes and foamy macrophages that heavily infiltrate plaques. PAI identified inflamed atherosclerotic plaques that display ~6-fold greater signal compared to controls (P<0.001) six hours after intravenous injection of ultra-selective carbon nanotubes, with in vivo corroboration via optical imaging. Our highly selective strategy may provide a targeted, non-invasive imaging strategy to accurately identify and diagnose inflamed atherosclerotic lesions.
View details for DOI 10.1002/adfm.202101005
View details for PubMedID 34733130
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC8559995