Kim Liang, MD

Study:  Microbubble Contrast-Enhanced Vascular Ultrasonography: A Novel Method of Detecting Large Vessel Vasculitis?
Institution:  Division of Rheumatology and Clinical Immunology, University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Award:  $50,000, one-year study

Monitoring disease activity is crucial for effective patient care and better outcomes, yet a key unmet need is the ability to differentiate active vasculitic disease activity from vessel damage in patients with large vessel vasculitides (LVV), like giant cell arteritis and Takayasu’s arteritis.  In LVV, the inflammatory process appears to begin at the outer layer of the vessel’s blood supply, with inflammation and new vessel formation occurring.

Liang’s team uses microbubble-contrast-enhanced carotid ultrasonography (CU), a novel non-invasive imaging technique, to detect changes in inflammation and new vessel formation in the outer vessel layer. CU may be able to help distinguish between active vasculitis and damage in patients with LVV.  Liang’s research will look at LVV patients with clinically active and inactive disease, and compare them to patients with rheumatoid arthritis and people with no history of autoimmune disease.  The results could help physicians tailor long-term treatment in LVV patients.