McConnell MV, Aikawa M, Maier SE, Ganz P, Libby P, Lee RT. 1999. MRI of rabbit atherosclerosis in response to dietary cholesterol lowering. Arteriosclerosis, thrombosis, and vascular biology. 19(8):1956-9. Pubmed: 10446077


Direct imaging of the atherosclerotic plaque, rather than the angiographic lumen, may provide greater insight into the response of atherosclerosis to cholesterol-lowering therapy. Aortic plaque was studied in vivo by MRI in rabbits undergoing dietary cholesterol intervention. Thirty-one rabbits underwent aortic balloon injury and high-cholesterol diet for 4 months and then were assigned to low-cholesterol versus continued high-cholesterol diet for up to an additional 16 months. High-resolution (310 micrometer) fast spin-echo MRI of the abdominal aorta was performed at 4, 12, and 20 months and compared with histology. MRI demonstrated a significant reduction in % area stenosis in rabbits placed on low-cholesterol diet (44.6+/-2. 1% at 20 months versus 55.8+/-1.5% at 4 months, P=0.0002). In contrast, % area stenosis increased in rabbits maintained on high-cholesterol diet (69.8+/-3.8% at 20 months versus 55.8+/-1.5% at 4 months, P=0.001). Similarly, plaque thickness decreased significantly in the low-cholesterol group (0.60+/-0.05 mm at 20 months versus 0.85+/-0.06 mm at 4 months, P=0.006), with a trend toward increase in the high-cholesterol group (1.02+/-0.08 mm at 20 months versus 0.85+/-0.06 mm at 4 months, P=0.1). Thus, in rabbits undergoing dietary cholesterol lowering, MRI detected regression of aortic atherosclerotic plaque in vivo. Plaque progression was seen with maintenance of high-cholesterol diet. MRI is a promising noninvasive technology for directly imaging atherosclerosis and its response to therapeutic interventions.

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Rich Lee seeks to understand heart failure and metabolic diseases that accompany human aging, and translate that understanding into therapies. Lee is an active clinician, regularly treating patients at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

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