Currently, doctors remove blood clots with minimally invasive catheter-based tools . The blood clots are thereafter discarded. Researchers at UPENN, UC Riversite, and Notre Dame and have now developed investigative non-clinical imaging techniques allowing for the study of the removed clots to better understand their formation and how they come to be.
Blood Clot Imaging
Clots are difficult to image because they are rich with heme, a compound that includes iron in its recipe. To make clots easier to peer through, the researchers are able to remove heme from a clot while keeping everything else intact, including the clots 3D structure.
The new “optical clearing” technique including fluorescent markers makes blood clots easier to see through. This allows for up to a millimeter of penetration of light into a clot. Previously, only about .02 millimeter of penetration was possible. Comprehensive study of the internal structure of clots without breaking them up first was therefore impossible.
Here’s a video of a composite image (4x magnification) of red blood cells in a cleared mouse clot. (Credit: Jeremiah J. Zartman, University of Notre Dame):