Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland
Microstructural and mechanical insight into.....pdf (7.76 MB)

Microstructural and mechanical insight into atherosclerotic plaques: an ex vivo DTI study to better assess plaque vulnerability

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-02-15, 17:25 authored by B Tornifoglio, R D Johnston, A J Stone, C Kerskens, C Lally

Non-invasive microstructural characterisation has the potential to determine the stability, or lack thereof, of atherosclerotic plaques and ultimately aid in better assessing plaques' risk to rupture. If linked with mechanical characterisation using a clinically relevant imaging technique, mechanically sensitive rupture risk indicators could be possible. This study aims to provide this link-between a clinically relevant imaging technique and mechanical characterisation within human atherosclerotic plaques. Ex vivo diffusion tensor imaging, mechanical testing, and histological analysis were carried out on human carotid atherosclerotic plaques. DTI-derived tractography was found to yield significant mechanical insight into the mechanical properties of more stable and more vulnerable microstructures. Coupled with insights from digital image correlation and histology, specific failure characteristics of different microstructural arrangements furthered this finding. More circumferentially uniform microstructures failed at higher stresses and strains when compared to samples which had multiple microstructures, like those seen in a plaque cap. The novel findings in this study motivate diagnostic measures which use non-invasive characterisation of the underlying microstructure of plaques to determine their vulnerability to rupture. 


European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research innovation programme (grant agreement no. 637674)



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Published Citation

Tornifoglio B, Johnston RD, Stone AJ, Kerskens C, Lally C. Microstructural and mechanical insight into atherosclerotic plaques: an ex vivo DTI study to better assess plaque vulnerability. Biomech Model Mechanobiol. 2023;(5):1515-1530

Publication Date

18 January 2023

PubMed ID



  • Amber (Advanced Material & Bioengineering Research) Centre




  • Published Version (Version of Record)