The National Institutes of Health’s National Heart, Lung & Blood Institute has awarded UCI biomedical engineer Zhongping Chen a four-year $2.6 million grant to build a better imaging system for detecting plaque buildup inside arteries. Working with Qifa Zhou of USC’s Viterbi School of Engineering and Pranav Patel of UCI’s School of Medicine, Chen proposes to capture the benefits of three sophisticated imaging technologies – the high resolution of optical coherence tomography, the deep tissue penetration of ultrasound imaging and the biomechanical contrast of optical coherence elastography – in a single catheter device. He has already combined the first two; the new funding will support his efforts to incorporate the third. The probe would provide a cross-sectional visualization of the inside of a patient’s arteries, allowing the clinician to detect hard-to-see plaque that accumulates and can suddenly rupture or trigger blood clots. “Our system will give the physician a powerful tool for imaging, diagnosing and managing early signs of cardiovascular disease,” said Chen, principal investigator for the grant. “The technology has many potential biomedical applications and will greatly benefit patients with coronary artery diseases.”