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Heart attacks are usually caused by inflamed plaques in the coronary artery causing an abrupt blockage of blood getting to the heart. The challenge for doctors is knowing which plaques are most likely to cause blockages, and therefore which patients should be treated with more aggressive therapies.
The team at the University of Oxford has shown that the most dangerous plaques release chemical messengers which modify the surrounding fat. They have developed a technology that detects the inflamed plaques that are prone to cause heart attacks by analysing CT images of the fat surrounding the arteries.