UCLA researchers published a study Monday that validated a noninvasive way to measure neurological arterial stiffness, which can allow doctors to better detect the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, stroke and other diseases.
The new magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, technique can allow doctors to earlier detect risks of health problems such as diabetes and hypertension without surgically operating on patients. Danny Wang, lead researcher and an associate professor of neurology, said arterial stiffness can be a predictor of many diseases such as Alzheimer’s, which may be linked to the accumulation of plaque facilitated by stiff arteries.
The MRI technique, called arterial spin labeling, uses a stronger-than-average magnetic field to map out arteries on a screen, Wang said. The research team measured arterial volume during the diastolic and systolic phases of the cardiac cycle, which occur when the heart ventricles relax and fill with blood and when they contract and pump blood into the arteries.
When arteries are stiff, the difference in volume between the diastolic and systolic phases would be less than that of a healthy, elastic artery, Wang added.
According to a UCLA press release, the researchers found that arterial stiffness increased with age and reduced cerebral blood flow, causing impaired blood supply to the brain.
Wang said it may take a few years for new studies to verify his findings and allow doctors to accurately correlate artery stiffness with diseases.
Compiled by Alejandra Reyes-Velarde, Bruin senior staff