Heart Imaging Project

3D rendering of a human fetal heart (15 weeks) acquired with X-ray tomography at 20 keV.

Heart failure, as well as sudden cardiac death associated with arrhythmias, are the main causes of mortality, and they are mostly associated with alteration in the muscle tissue (e.g. the presence of important fibrosis or scar). This is why the microscopic organization, as well as its integration in macro anatomy, needs to be completely understood to get a better understanding and develop adequate treatment strategies. Synchrotron X-ray Phase Contrast micro-tomography, as implemented at the TOMCAT beamline (PSI), provide essential and unique 3D reconstructions of complete hearts (see figure) for understanding cardiac microstructure and its influencing factors, both on small animals or human fetal hearts. The aim of our current Heart Imaging Project is to quantify cardiac structures and tissues for the first time at micrometre scale, non-destructively, without the use of contrast agents and in 3D. Insights on the cardiac organ morphology like the myofibres, vessels and trabeculation organization, and how they change with disease, are crucial for future clinical applications, not only to understand heart remodelling and the different patterns in cardiovascular disease, but also to provide more personalized and adapted treatments. In this project, we are working in collaboration with the University Pompeu Fabra (UPF Barcelona), the Hospital Clinic and IDIBAPS (Barcelona), the Institute Cardiovascular Sciences (UCL London) and University Hospital Centre Zagreb.