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Innovation that aims to identify dangerous atherosclerotic plaques wins prize

Photograph of Magnus Cinthio, Isabel Goncalves and Tobias Erlöv.
Magnus Cinthio, Isabel Goncalves and Tobias Erlöv win Lund University’s and Sparbanken Skåne’s award for Future Innovations to develop their idea further. Photo: Kennet Ruona

Diabetes researcher and cardiologist Isabel Goncalves at Lund University Diabetes Centre (LUDC) has teamed up with ultrasound researchers at the Faculty of Engineering at Lund University (LTH) to identify dangerous atherosclerotic plaques at an early stage. The team is now being awarded Lund University’s and Sparbanken Skåne’s Future Innovations Award to develop their idea further.

In atherosclerosis, fat accumulates in the arterial walls creating atherosclerotic plaques. Plaques that rupture can cause a stroke or myocardial infarction, and it is important to identify dangerous plaques as early as possible to prevent serious complications. 

Diabetes researcher and cardiologist Isabel Goncalves at LUDC is collaborating with ultrasound researchers Tobias Erlöv and Magnus Cinthio at the Faculty of Engineering at Lund University to develop methods that can help identify people who are at risk of developing a stroke because of dangerous plaques. At the Future Innovations Award event in Lund on November 7th, they were awarded SEK 150,000 in the employee category. Type 2 diabetes increases the risk of atherosclerosis, and this patient group may be helped by the innovation in the future.

“It’s fantastic that we receive this prize for a collaboration where we learn a lot from each other every day. We need these types of collaborations to create innovations that can reach the patients. About a quarter of patients who develop atherosclerotic plaques have diabetes, so this is a group that can be helped by our technology in the future. An advantage of our method is that it is simple, inexpensive, non-invasive, and doesn't use radiation,” says Isabel Goncalves, professor of cardiology at Lund University and senior consultant at Skåne University Hospital (SUS).

The researchers are developing a software based on ultrasound technology. With the help of the technique, it is possible to carry out detailed examinations of atherosclerotic plaques in the blood vessels of the neck. The software is being developed by Tobias Erlöv and Magnus Cinthio, researchers in biomedical engineering at the Faculty of Engineering. They hope that their method can improve the clinical assessment of patients at high risk of developing a stroke. One disadvantage of current ultrasound techniques is the inability to distinguish the composition of tissue.

“We are building software that we hope can be used even at early disease stages. Our hope is that our method will reduce suffering for patients and help the healthcare system to save on costs,” says Tobias Erlöv, researcher in biomedical engineering at LTH.

About the award

Together with Sparbanken Skåne, Lund University awards a total of SEK 500,000 to Future Innovations. The award is intended to promote and encourage the utilization of knowledge at the university. The competition is open to all employees and students at Lund University, and ideas and projects from all disciplines are welcomed, as long as they have not reached a commercial phase.

Ideas that have not yet been realised are evaluated based on their potential for future innovation. The jury looks for innovation, societal value, relevance, how the idea can contribute to global sustainability goals, scalability, and also considers the team's drive and passion. In the two categories of Employee and Student, a first prize and two special commendations are awarded in each category.

The jury consists of:

Erik Renström, Vice-Chancellor, Lund University
Martina Kvist Reimer, CEO of Red Glead Discovery
Karin Ebbinghaus, CEO of Elonroad
Anna Branten, Founder, Institute for Transition

Link to the press release from Lund University



Atherosclerosis means that fat has been accumulating for a long time on the inside the arterial wall, forming so called atherosclerotic plaques. The plaques can create obstructions in the artery that worsen the blood flow and when rupture occurs, this can lead to the formation of blood clots in the arteries. Blood clots can cause sudden deaths, heart attacks or strokes. It is possible to decrease the risk of atherosclerosis by eating healthy, stop smoking and being physically active. It is not yet clear what causes people with diabetes to have an increased risk of suffering from complications due to atherosclerosis compared to the rest of the population.