New imaging technique sees the heart attack before it happens


Coronary artery disease (CAD) is associated with the formation of plaques on the artery walls. Among the different plaque types Lipid-core plaques are particularly unstable and prone to produce sudden major problems such as a heart attack or stroke. Early diagnoses of lipid-core plaques and targeted treatment can potentially save millions of lives and avoid billions of Euros in hospital costs.
Optical coherence tomography (OCT) is capable of imaging the structural features of lipid-core plaque, i.e. a bright thin fibrous cap covering a dark-appearing lipid region. Other tissue types or imaging artifacts show similar features, causing incorrect diagnosis. The diagnosis of lipid-core plaque can be improved by adding a new functional imaging modality to the current OCT platform.
In this Veni project, I aim to develop a new imaging technique, called thermo-elastic deformation imaging (TDI). TDI uses phase-sensitive OCT (PS-OCT) to detect the thermo-elastic deformation that is induced by absorption of nanosecond laser pulses. The reconstructed TDI image enables assessment of optical and thermo-elastic properties of tissues simultaneously. TDI together with conventional OCT will achieve an accurate diagnosis of diseased tissues including lipid-core plaques.
My main objective is to create the TDI technique and bring it to ex vivo and in vivo imaging applications. The project will be organized in two tracks:
(1) I will develop a TDI prototype integrating a nanosecond pulse laser into a superfast Fourier Domain Mode Locked PS-OCT system. I will develop three devices for TDI studies, i.e. a forward-looking probe, a handheld probe and a motorized catheter.
(2) I will investigate the principle of TDI by establishing numerical simulations and experimental validations of phantoms. Deformation features of plaques and tumors will be characterized as the knowledge base of TDI. Ex vivo and in vivo studies of plaques will be carried out using catheterized TDI.


Project number


Main applicant

Dr. T. Wang PhD

Affiliated with

Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam, Erasmus MC, Thoraxcentrum

Team members

Dr. T. Wang PhD


01/11/2017 to 01/01/2020