Blood Test May Predict Heart Attack
March 22, 2012

Blood Test May Predict Heart Attack

A new blood test developed to predict heart attacks as much as two weeks in advance could be a savior to more than 2.5 million Americans at risk, medical news site MyHealthNewsDaily reports.

The test, which measures circulating endothelial cells (CECs) in the blood, was used in a study of 50 patients led by Scripps Translational Science Institute (STSI) — a collaborative program between Scripps Health and the Scripps Research Institute (SRI).

CECs in heart attack patients are larger and more misshapen than in those who aren´t having a heart attack, and the test is designed to find if there are any of those kinds of CECs building up in the patient.

The results of the study -- “Characterization of Circulating Endothelial Cells in Acute Myocardial Infarction” -- were published in the journal Science Translational Medicine. It concluded that CECs are promising biomarkers for prediction of acute ongoing arterial plaque rupture.

“The ability to diagnose an imminent heart attack has long been considered the holy grail of cardiovascular medicine,” said lead author Dr. Eric Topol, director of STSI. “This has been a tremendous collaboration of two institutions on the research side, three health care systems in San Diego, and a life science industry leader, which has resulted in an important discovery that may help to change the future of cardiovascular medicine.”

The researchers compared the CECs in 50 heart attack patients who were seen at four San Diego area hospitals against those from a healthy control group to see how much different cell counts and structural features were between both groups. The team used a technology called Veridex CellSearch System to find the CECs.

“We are pleased to have collaborated on this important investigational study,” said Mark Connelly, a Ph.D. director at Veridex. “CellSearch has proven to be a powerful tool for oncology research and the care of metastatic cancer patients. This study highlights the value of accurate rare cell capture and analysis in areas beyond oncology.”

Findings of the study are significant, as more than 2.5 million Americans every year experience a heart attack or ischemic stroke, commonly due to obstructive coronary artery disease, said Paddy Bennett, MD, lead investigator at STSI. If the arteries get abruptly and completely obstructed by the buildup of fatty cholesterol, it will cause a massive heart attack that will likely lead to a sudden death.

“With some additional validation, the hope is to have this test developed for commercial use in next year or two,” Raghava Gollapudi, MD, principal investigator from SharpHealthCare, told the Huffington Post. “This would be an ideal test to perform in an emergency room to determine if a patient is on the cusp of a heart attack or about to experience one in the next couple of weeks. Right now we can only test to detect if a patient is currently experiencing or has recently experienced a heart attack.”

The study was co-authored by physicians and scientists from Scripps Health; STSI; TSRI; Veridex, LLC (a Johnson & Johnson company); Palomar Health; and SharpHealthCare. The National Institutes of Health provided $2 million in funding for the study.

“When Palomar Health was approached to participate in a research study involving this population, we were quick to recognize the potential value of this work,” said Palomar Health Director of Interventional Services Paul Patchen, RN. “We were honored to have been able to contribute to this groundbreaking research that may have significant benefit not only to our patients and community but to all patients with coronary artery disease.”