The purpose of this study was to identify where ultrasmall superparamagnetic particles of iron oxide (USPIO) locate to in myocardium, develop a methodology that differentiates active macrophage uptake of USPIO from passive tissue distribution; and investigate myocardial inflammation in cardiovascular diseases.
Myocardial inflammation is hypothesized to be a key pathophysiological mechanism of heart failure (HF), but human evidence is limited, partly because evaluation is challenging. USPIO-magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) potentially allows specific identification of myocardial inflammation but it remains unclear what the USPIO-MRI signal represents.
Histological validation was performed using a murine acute myocardial infarction (MI) model. A multiparametric, multi-time-point MRI methodology was developed, which was applied in patients with acute MI (n = 12), chronic ischemic cardiomyopathy (n = 7), myocarditis (n = 6), dilated cardiomyopathy (n = 5), and chronic sarcoidosis (n = 5).
USPIO were identified in myocardial macrophages and myocardial interstitium. R1 time-course reflected passive interstitial distribution whereas multi-time-point R2* was also sensitive to active macrophage uptake. R2*/R1 ratio provided a quantitative measurement of myocardial macrophage infiltration. R2* behavior and R2*/R1 ratio were higher in infarcted (p = 0.001) and remote (p = 0.033) myocardium in acute MI and in chronic ischemic cardiomyopathy (infarct: p = 0.008; remote p = 0.010), and were borderline higher in DCM (p = 0.096), in comparison to healthy controls, but were no different in myocarditis or sarcoidosis. An R2*/R1 threshold of 25 had a sensitivity and specificity of 90% and 83%, respectively, for detecting active USPIO uptake.
USPIO are phagocytized by cardiac macrophages but are also passively present in myocardial interstitium. A multiparametric multi-time-point MRI methodology specifically identifies active myocardial macrophage infiltration. Persistent active macrophage infiltration is present in infarcted and remote myocardium in chronic ischemic cardiomyopathy, providing a substrate for HF.