Creatine MRI may spot heart damage earlier

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Measuring specific creatine-related molecules in the body using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may help detect damaged myocardial tissue earlier, according to a study published online Jan. 12 in Nature Medicine.

Researchers led by Ravinder Reddy, PhD, of the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, used a method called chemical exchange saturation transfer (CEST) in an MRI in both healthy and infarcted myocardial tissue in animals. During the process, the MRI helped visualize creatine during a chemical conversion.

They found that images produced by CEST MRI were higher resolution compared with magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS), a standard tool used to measure creatine. Sensitivity with CEST was two orders of magnitude higher than MRS.

To further demonstrate the ability of CEST to home in on the molecule, they mapped creatine levels as human participants flexed their calf muscles. 31P MRS validated creatine measurements.

The investigators noted that the technique could be a feasible alternative way to measure myocardial tissue damage.

CEST MRI, they wrote, “does not require any exogenous contrast agent, provides about two orders of magnitude higher sensitivity compared to 1H MRS, can be readily implemented on 3-T clinical MRI scanners and is expected to contribute to the early diagnosis of myocardial disorders.”