Approximately 7.3 million deaths worldwide are attributed to acute myocardial infarctions, otherwise known as heart attacks, making
atherosclerotic Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) the leading cause of premature death across the globe.
CAD is caused by the formation of an atherosclerotic plaque within the lining of an arterial wall as white blood cells, lipids and fibrous tissue collect and cause stenosis - a narrowing of the lumen of the artery, the channel through which blood flows. Over decades of growth the plaque may reach a point at which blood flow through the affected region is heavily restricted, resulting in an insufficient amount of blood reaching the heart, causing pain and discomfort. In serious circumstances a plaque may rupture and the flow of blood may clot and cause a blockage in the artery, resulting in a heart attack or stroke.
Unfortunately, as the formation of a potentially dangerous arterial plaque is largely asymptomatic - progressing without exhibiting any symptoms to warn of the threat - patients are often only diagnosed after suffering from the acute impact of a heart attack or stroke.
Contemporary techniques employed in interventional cardiology and cardiac surgery treat only those patients that are clinically symptomatic - those that are exhibiting detectable symptoms. These patients suffer from occlusive coronary atherosclerotic plaques which cause in excess of 70% luminal stenosis and are treated via Percutaneous Transluminal Coronary Angioplasty (PTCA), with or without the implantation of a stent, or via coronary artery bypass surgery. However, these clinically symptomatic plaques cause only 14% of all heart attacks, while the remaining 86% are due to clinically asymptomatic, non-occlusive coronary atherosclerotic plaques with less than 70% luminal stenosis. The treatment options for management of these plaques are limited largely to drug administration.