A novel probe has been designed by scientist to detect dangerous blood clots and deposits that pass through arteries.
Till date probes are essentially cameras that can travel inside arteries.
The new probe, developed by Guillermo Tearney at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, also detects molecules that mark out the most harmful clots and fatty plaques.
In order to test the probe, Tearney's team fed rabbits a diet that generated arterial deposits and then injected them with a fluorescent chemical that tags the danger-sign molecules.
The probe carries a detector for the fluorescent light, which revealed bright areas on artery walls where the tags had found their targets.
Doing this the researchers were able to detect fibrin - a protein that causes clots to form, and cathepsin B, an enzyme found in the most dangerous plaques.
Detecting fibrin could be especially valuable for people who have had arterial blockages opened through the surgical fitting of stents. Often, these rapidly become reblocked, and the first sign that this is happening is the deposition of fibrin on the stent.
Existing probes cannot distinguish fibrin from healthy deposits such as the cells that line the stent.
The fluorescence tests can, so doctors can give clot-busting drugs before blockages can form.
In principle, any molecule could be detected, including molecular signatures of cancer. And just like on the submarine, lasers to zap suspicious lesions could be added, said Tearney.
"Although it would require further development, it is possible to combine therapy into the [probe] to combat dangerous plaques," New Scientist quoted him as saying.
Tearney is now planning to test the device in people undergoing surgery for coronary artery disease.