Cardiovascular Biomechanics group receives European grant for development of photoacoustic imaging system

Dr. ir. Richard Lopata participates in a project within Horizon 2020 of the European Union that aims to revolutionize screening, diagnosis and monitoring of cardiovascular disease by building a compact photoacoustic imaging system to detect vulnerable plaques in the carotid artery. The granted 4.26 million will be divided amongst the 10 European partners; the research group Cardiovascular Biomechanics in the department of Biomedical Engineering will receive 555,000 euros for two PhD students and will receive the new system and probes. These students will be supervised by dr. ir. Richard Lopata, dr. ir. Marcel Rutten en prof. dr. ir. Frans van de Vosse.

Clinical need for improved diagnoses

Cardiovascular disease remains the major cause of death for people at middle age. In the carotid arteries feeding the brain, vulnerable plaque rupture can cause blood vessels to become blocked, causing stroke. Currently, the decision to perform a high-risk surgical intervention is based on the severity of narrowing of the vessel alone, measured with ultrasound imaging. However, this does not distinguish between vulnerable (rupture-prone) and harmless plaques, leading to severe overtreatment. Consequently, there is a worldwide unmet and urgent clinical need for information to enable diagnosis of carotid plaque vulnerability, avoiding cardiovascular events (CVENT) and reducing overtreatment risk.

Portable photoacoustic imaging system

The objective of the CVENT project is the development of a portable photoacoustic imaging system for diagnosis and monitoring of carotid plaque vulnerability. The combination of high optical contrast of a photoacoustic imaging system and the high resolution of ultrasound will be used to identify plaque vulnerability.

CVENT consortium

The CVENT consortium (carotid plaque vulnerability, avoiding cardiovascular events) unites leading research groups, clinicians, and industrial specialists from ten partners from the Netherlands, Germany, France, and Switzerland; the project is let by Esaote Europe, Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) is partner number 2. The project CVENT will be funded within Horizon 2020 of the European Union.

Ultrasound & photo acoustic imaging

Ultrasound imaging is widely used in the clinic for example in echography of the unborn child in pregnant women; this technique uses soundwaves and their echo to detect the presence of tissues. Photo acoustic imaging is a related, but relatively new technique and is not yet common practice in the clinical environment. A photo acoustic device emits light and receives the soundwaves that reflect of different kinds of tissue. This techniques enables the differentiation between different kinds of tissue, however it can only be used to ‘see’ up to 3 cm under the skin. Therefore the photo acoustic imaging is a promising addition to the ultrasound technique that penetrates deeper into the body.

For more background information, read the Wikipedia page on ultrasound and photoacoustics

Richard Lopata Richard Lopata is assistant professor in the research group Cardiovascular Biomechanics at the department of Biomedical Engineering. He specializes in functional ultrasound imaging, elastography and cardiovascular biomechanics and has (co-)authored over 30 peer-reviewed journal publications on his field of expertise. Lopata has won various prestigious awards, like the EFSUMB and IEEE Ultrasonic young investigator awards, and acquired numerous grants, including three grants on the topic of abdominal aortic aneurysms (AAAs), one of which is a VENI on 3D Ultrasound imaging of AAAs. Moreover, a large FP7 project on photoacoustic imaging of skin / muscle perfusion and carotid plaque morphology was granted, an ITN on Cardiac Support, and most recently another grant on functional ultrasound imaging of diseased carotid arteries. In addition, he is very passionate about the education and supervision of Bachelor, Master and PhD students.