Heart attack patients may soon be able to have a blood test to predict any future heart attacks according to recent research. The ‘Journal Physical Biology’ just published a new study that found that patients who have had previous heart attacks have unique cells that are floating around in their circulatory system. Researchers are currently investigating whether they can predict who is about to have a heart attack compared to those who are healthy.
A group of scientists at the Scripps Research Institute in California are examining patient’s blood for the unique endothelial cells that are found cruising around in the circulatory system. Pieces of fatty plaques that build up on blood vessel walls can rupture and dislodge into the blood stream. Eventually these pieces, along with blood clots from ulcerated blood vessels, can block various vessels around the heart leading to a lack of blood flow that leads to a heart attack.
The research consisted of 111 patients, 79 after a previous heart attack, 25 healthy individuals and 7 patients that were being treated for other vascular disorders. According to Prof. Peter Kuhn, the research paper was completed in order to provide proof that endothelial cells are found in the blood right after a heart attack incident, and that these cells cannot be found in healthy people. The study was extremely successful in finding this cellular evidence the researchers hoped to find.
Being the results of the study were extremely strong, scientists are now working on the next step in how to tell when people may be within the early stages of having a heart attack. Such a ground-breaking study could save many lives with just a simple blood test, or fluid biopsy, within high risk heart patients. Scientists also believe the technique can be used now in mild symptomatic patients to determine a heart attack risk even before they ever have one. Currently, there really is no perfectly accurate test to predict heart attacks, proving how important this new research really is.
The blood biopsy procedure is called HD-CEC (High-Definition Circulating Endothelial Cell) assay in order to detect the presence of these cells circulating in the blood. By using a direct analysis method, scientists compared this test to another test that detects cancer cells that may be circulating in cancer patients. The CEC test proved to be free from any biased data compared to the cancer screening tests. Researchers say it is more work, but in the end the test analyzes all potential cells.
If a patient were to be found in the early stages of a heart attack they could then be given medication to thin the blood in order to prevent the event. Work that has been done earlier has also shown that the test could potentially predict a heart attack 2 to 3 weeks before it occurs. About 715,000 people in the U.S. have a heart attack every year, and within 525,000 of these people it is their first event with the rest being recurrent. One in every four deaths is caused by heart disease, with a total of 600,000 that die each year. Being able to predict a heart attack with a blood test could be a very powerful tool in the medical field to date.
By Tina Elliott