September 04, 2007
New Scan Technique Detects Heart Muscle Fat Buildup

Yet another instrumentation advance enables yet another advance in understanding of the aging process.

DALLAS — Sept. 4, 2007 — A simple imaging technique developed by UT Southwestern Medical Center researchers has revealed fat buildup in the hearts of pre-diabetic people long before symptoms of heart disease or diabetes appear.

This discovery fits a larger trend: in the future you'll be told sooner when parts of your body start breaking down. In fact, sensors will become so powerful that you'll be able to get daily measures (if you can stand to watch) of the many many small steps of your gradual decay into old age. This sort of advance will shift public perceptions about aging and cause younger people to see their bodies as gradually accumulating lots of small bits of old age. This will make people a lot more conscious of the aging process and reduce the feeling of invulnerability that younger people feel when looking at older people. I'm expecting this development and others like it to build support among younger people for a faster rate of research into techniques to slow, stop, and reverse the aging process.

Yet another impressive advance in scanning technology.

The technique detects fat accumulation in cells of the beating heart in a way no other clinical method can, the researchers said, and may provide a way to screen patients for early signs of heart disease in diabetes.

“Hearts beat; people breathe; and magnetic resonance imaging is very sensitive to motion, so we had to find a way to electronically ‘freeze’ the image of the heart,” said Dr. Lidia Szczepaniak, assistant professor of internal medicine at UT Southwestern and senior author of a study appearing in the Sept. 4 issue of Circulation.

“We wanted a noninvasive method to study the beating human heart,” Dr. Szczepaniak said.

Dr. Szczepaniak and her colleagues developed a technique that captures the signal from a beating heart as a person lies in an ordinary magnet used for MRI scanning.

The ability to detect the early stage development of insulin resistant (type 2) diabetes will serve the useful purpose of telling people to change their diets and lose weight. This capability should be more powerful than telling people they have high cholesterol and lipids in their blood since the report of fat build-up in heart muscle cells seems scarier. This MRI scan technique measures the early stage malfunction of a heart. Will you want to know about that?

Share |      Randall Parker, 2007 September 04 11:19 PM  Aging Cardiovascular Studies

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