Imminent Heart Attack Predicted in Trial

Misshapen circulating endothelial cells may predict heart attack

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Chris Galloway, M.D.

(RxWiki News) What if doctors could identify patients at risk of an imminent heart attack and actually prevent it? It's not as far from reality as it sounds. In a trial researchers have found a blood test can identify a heart attack before it happens.

Blood tests indicated that patients at imminent risk of a heart attack have abnormally large and misshapen circulating endothelial cells (CEC), often with multiple nuclei, indicating the cells may act as a biomarker for a heart attack. The test could be commercially available within two years.

Dr. Eric Topol, the study's principal investigator and director of Scripps Translational Science Institute, said that the ability to diagnose an imminent heart attack has long been considered the holy grail of cardiovascular medicine. He said the discovery could change the future of cardiovascular medicine.

During the clinical trial researchers enrolled 50 patients presenting with heart attacks who arrived at one of four acute care hospitals in San Diego. Investigators used cell isolation platforms, including the Veridex CellSearch System, to test their blood.

They found that CEC counts and cell structure was significantly altered in heart attack patients as compared to a group of healthy patients.

"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," said Dr. Raghava Gollapudi, a principal investigator from Sharp HealthCare. "Right now we can only test to detect if a patient is currently experiencing or has recently experienced a heart attack."

The study, funded by a $2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health, was recently published in journal Science Translational Medicine.

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Review Date: 
March 19, 2012
Last Updated:
March 21, 2012