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Defusing a time bomb: Heart attack risk-detection technology developed at UH

A breakthrough in computational medicine is helping one University of Houston professor pave the way to uncover a ticking "time-bomb" in the heart.

Ioannis A. Kakadiaris, an associate professor of computer science at UH and director of the Computational Biomedicine Laboratory (CBL), and doctoral student Sean O'Malley are collaborating with Dr. Morteza Naghavi and other leading cardiologists from the Association for Eradication of Heart Attack (AEHA) in this research effort. With cardiovascular disease accounting for twice as many deaths as all cancers in the United States, this group has developed computer technology to alert physicians to heart attack risk.

"This 'time-bomb' is called 'vulnerable plaque,' and the unaware, healthy-looking person with the 'bomb' in his or her heart is the 'vulnerable patient,'" Kakadiaris said. "These 'vulnerable patients' bear a very high risk of having a heart attack in the next 12 months."

To support this effort to defuse these "time bombs," Kakadiaris has been awarded a three-year, $566,350 grant from the Division of Information and Intelligent Systems of the National Science Foundation (NSF).

"This is exactly the outcome we had hoped to foster when we funded this project," said James C. French, NSF program director whose support was instrumental for the project to come this far. "The Science and Engineering Information Integration and Informatics program at NSF seeks to fund core computer science research in a domain context that has the potential for high impact in science and engineering domains. Kakadiaris' expertise in computer vision to aid in the identification of vulnerable patients has the potential for broad impact in health care. I am delighted to see that his group is achieving that potential."

The method developed by the CBL takes advantage of the tendency for vasa vasorum the small arteries distributed around the walls of blood vessels to proliferate around ar
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Contact: Lisa Merkl
lkmerkl@uh.edu
713-743-8192
University of Houston
18-Jan-2006


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