Ultrafast imaging and cardiovascular diseases: the CNP Assurances Foundation supports a new research project

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Mickaël Tanter, directeur de recherche INSERM à l’Institut Langevin de l’ESPCI ParisTech

The CNP Assurances Foundation is giving its support to the École Supérieure of Industrial Physics and Chemistry of the City of Paris (ESPCI ParisTech) in its ambitious research project directed by Mickael Tanter (photo), intended to improve the detection and management of heart contraction abnormalities. These dysfunctions affect one million individuals in France and are responsible for numerous deaths.

Such abnormalities are difficult to detect

Cardiovascular diseases constitute the main cause of mortality worldwide, ahead of infectious diseases and cancer. Some of these deaths are due to cardiac insufficiencies, often consecutive to contraction abnormalities of the heart. These dysfunctions, such as cardiac arrhythmia and ventricular desynchronisation, currently affect close to one million individuals in France. The ageing of the population only exacerbates the problem.

With conventional examination techniques, such as electrocardiograms or MRI, electrical abnormalities of the heart, which lead in time to cardiac insufficiency, cannot yet be detected early on and located with sufficient precision.

An ultrafast ultrasound imaging technique

The Inserm U 979 research team “Physics of Waves for Medicine” of the Institut Langevin of ESPCI (École Supérieure of Industrial Physics and Chemistry of the City of Paris) has developed an ultrafast ultrasound imaging technique (12,000 images/second), which in time will be usable to visualise and measure the electromechanical activation of the heart at a very fast rate.

Contact : mickael.tanter@espci.fr

Capable of achieving rates of thousands of images per second, this new non-invasive technique allows the propagation of mechanical vibrations inside organs to be observed in real time with millimetre precision, the velocity of these waves being associated with the local hardness, making it possible to obtain a quantitative map of the hardness of tissues. In the case in point, ultrafast imaging of the heart will allow early detection of dysfunctions connected with electrical conductivity, and to differentiate very early between benign conditions and serious conditions requiring a major operation, such as the fitting of a pacemaker.

Challenges to overcome

It will be a case of applying this ultrafast imaging technique, which has proven itself in the detection of certain tumours, such as those of the breast, to observation of the contraction movements of the heart. However, adapting this ultrafast imaging technique to measurement of the rigidity of the myocardium, as well as to high-resolution visualisation of the electrical activity of the heart, raises new difficulties, but we believe we can solve them. Our goal is full validation of these new imaging approaches in patients within two or three years,” explain Mickaël Tanter, director of research at the Institut Langevin in ESPCI ParisTech, and Mathieu Pernot, head of Inserm research.

Financed by ESPCI, Inserm and the CNP Assurances Foundation, this project will lead to the creation of an ultrafast 3D image prototype for cardiovascular research, scheduled for 2015. It is planned to allow a resolution of 5000 images per second simultaneously in multiple regions of the heart, compared with 50 images per second for the echocardiography systems currently in clinical use.

The project is being conducted in association with the team of Prof. Haissaguerre (Haut-Lévêque Hospital, Bordeaux), international expert in the field of cardiac arrhythmia. The team, directed by Mickaël Tanter at the Institut Langevin, is made up of 13 permanent researchers (CNRS, ESPCI and Inserm), 8 postdoctorals, one of whom was recently recruited to bring forward the rapid heart imaging project, and 20 doctoral students.

The site of the Institut Langevin de l’ESPCI ParisTech

The site of the Fondation CNP Assurances

This project is supported by the ESPCI Georges Charpak Endowment Fund

10 Rue Vauquelin, 75005 Paris