Test could predict heart attack risk
Published on 10 January 2014 02:30 PM
Doctors could soon be able to identify the risk of a heart attack by looking at a patient's blood cells.
That's according to scientists in the US, who found that heart attack patients have unique cells circulating in their blood.
They believe their findings could eventually pave the way for a new test to distinguish between healthy patients and those who are about to have a heart attack.
Heart attack 'leaves cellular trace'
During the study, researchers at the Scripps Research Institute in California looked for circulating endothelial cells in the blood of 111 patients.
Many heart attacks are caused when fatty plaques build up in blood vessels around the heart. These plaques can rupture, releasing fragments into the bloodstream and blocking the flow of blood, which then causing a heart attack.
During the latest study, researchers found that endothelial cells were also released into the blood during this process.
They performed blood tests on 79 patients who had suffered a heart attack and compared them with 25 healthy people and 7 having treatment for diseased blood vessels.
Researcher Prof Peter Kuhn said circulating endothelial cells were found in patients following a heart attack, and did not exist among those in the healthy control group.
He said the team are now investigating whether testing for these cells could identify those in the early stages of a heart attack.
Prof Kuhn added: 'Our results were so significant relative to the healthy controls that the obvious next step is to assess the usefulness of the test in identifying patients during the early stages of a heart attack.'
Study unlikely to change practice in short-term
The British Heart Foundation said the study was unlikely to change UK practice in the short-term.
The charity's Dr Mike Knapton said hospitals already had good ways to treat and diagnose heart attacks, along with targets to ensure rapid pain-to-treatment times.
But he added: 'This study appears to be laying the groundwork for future research to see if this test could be used to identify patients in the early stages of a heart attack.'
The findings have been published in the journal Physical Biology.
Copyright Press Association 2014