Imaging of inflammatory cellular protagonists in human atherosclerosis: a dual-isotope SPECT approach.
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Atherosclerotic plaque development and progression signifies a complex inflammatory disease mediated by a multitude of proinflammatory leukocyte subsets. Using single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) coupled with computed tomography (CT), this study tested a new dual-isotope acquisition protocol to assess each radiotracer's capability to identify plaque phenotype and inflammation levels pertaining to leukocytes expressing leukocyte function-associated antigen-1 (LFA-1) and the leukocyte subset of proinflammatory macrophages expressing somatostatin receptor subtype-2 (SST2). Individual radiotracer uptake was quantified and the presence of corresponding immunohistological cell markers was assessed.Human symptomatic carotid plaque segments were obtained from endarterectomy. Segments were incubated in dual-isotope radiotracers [111In]In-DOTA-butylamino-NorBIRT ([111In]In-Danbirt) and [99mTc]Tc-[N0-14,Asp0,Tyr3]-octreotate ([99mTc]Tc-Demotate 2) before scanning with SPECT/CT. Plaque phenotype was classified as pathological intimal thickening, fibrous cap atheroma or fibrocalcific using histology sections based on distinct morphological characteristics. Plaque segments were subsequently immuno-stained with LFA-1 and SST2 and quantified in terms of positive area fraction and compared against the corresponding SPECT images.Focal uptake of co-localising dual-radiotracers identified the heterogeneous distribution of inflamed regions in the plaques which co-localised with positive immuno-stained regions of LFA-1 and SST2. [111In]In-Danbirt and [99mTc]Tc-Demotate 2 uptake demonstrated a significant positive correlation (r = 0.651; p = 0.001). Fibrous cap atheroma plaque phenotype correlated with the highest [111In]In-Danbirt and [99mTc]Tc-Demotate 2 uptake compared with fibrocalcific plaques and pathological intimal thickening phenotypes, in line with the immunohistological analyses.A dual-isotope acquisition protocol permits the imaging of multiple leukocyte subsets and the pro-inflammatory macrophages simultaneously in atherosclerotic plaque tissue. [111In]In-Danbirt may have added value for assessing the total inflammation levels in atherosclerotic plaques in addition to classifying plaque phenotype.