A new MRI method enables clinicians and MRI technologists to map creatine at higher resolutions in the heart in order to find abnormalities and disorders earlier than if they used traditional diagnostic methods. The preclinical findings documented by researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania shows an advantage over less sensitive tests. Additionally, tests using creatine are safer and more cost-effective than using radioactive or contrasting agents.
Creatine is a naturally occurring metabolite that helps supply energy cells. When heart tissue becomes damaged from a loss of blood supply, the creatine levels drop. Researchers used this process in a large animal model with a method known as CEST, or chemical exchange saturation transfer. CEST measures specific molecules in the body in order to track the creatine on a regional basis.
By using CEST, abnormalities in normal heart function can be further investigated. Additionally, creatine levels change in the brain when abnormalities arise. Given the heightened resolution of the technique, opportunities for studying brain disorders using creatine metabolism are a possibility. Although CEST has been used to image tissue pH and map proteins in the past, this is the first time it has been used to study heart tissue.