Date of this Version
J. R. Soc. Interface 12: 20150843.
Plaques vulnerable to rupture are characterized by a thin and stiff fibrous cap overlaying a soft lipid-rich necrotic core. The ability to measure local plaque stiffness directly to quantify plaque stress and predict rupture potential would be very attractive, but no current technology does so. This study seeks to validate the use of Brillouin microscopy to measure the Brillouin frequency shift, which is related to stiffness, within vulnerable plaques. The left carotid artery of an ApoE-/- mouse was instrumented with a cuff that induced vulnerable plaque development in nine weeks. Adjacent histological sections from the instrumented and control arteries were stained for either lipids or collagen content, or imaged with confocal Brillouin microscopy. Mean Brillouin frequency shift was 15.79±0.09 GHz in the plaque compared with 16.24±0.15 (p < 0.002) and 17.16±0.56 GHz (p < 0.002) in the media of the diseased and control vessel sections, respectively. In addition, frequency shift exhibited a strong inverse correlation with lipid area of 20.67±0.06 (p < 0.01) and strong direct correlation with collagen area of 0.71±0.15 (p < 0.05). This is the first study, to the best of our knowledge, to apply Brillouin spectroscopy to quantify atherosclerotic plaque stiffness, which motivates combining this technology with intravascular imaging to improve detection of vulnerable plaques in patients.