Researchers have developed a new way to capture the detailed biomechanical properties of heart tissue. The high-resolution optical technique fills an important technology gap necessary to develop and test therapies that might eventually be used to heal heart damage after a heart attack.

Optical coherence elastography was used for biomechanical assessment of tissue damage caused by a heart attack in mice.
(Credit: Kirill V. Larin of University of Houston.)

Studies in mice show that a high-resolution technique known as optical coherence elastography (OCE) can be used to compare the mechanical properties of healthy tissue and tissue scarred by an induced heart attack. The researchers plan to use the technique to evaluate the effectiveness of therapies aimed at reversing damage to heart tissue.

The investigators are now collaborating with other research teams to develop very small probes that would allow OCE to be used to image the hearts inside living mice. They are also collaborating with a group to use OCE to assess the mechanical properties of a heart valve, work that could provide insights into how scarring and calcifications prevent heart valves from working properly.