A simple blood test may reveal that patients with heart ailments are actually suffering from the more dangerous coronary artery disease.
Coronary artery disease results when plaque grows in the arteries until blood flow to the heart is constricted and if enough plaque builds up, a piece could break off and block blood flow to the heart, which results in a heart attack or stroke.
An interdisciplinary team at the University of Nebraska (Omaha, NE, USA) while looking for clues to help understand inflammatory conditions such as arthritis and alcoholic liver disease, focused on a molecule that is a strong indicator of inflammation. The molecule, known as malondialdehyde–acetaldehyde or MAA also appeared to indicate the presence of coronary artery disease.
Over the course of two pilot studies, the team tested hundreds of volunteer patients'' blood, and found a remarkable correlation. Any test developed from the discovery would be cheap and easy to implement with any clinical laboratory facility''s existing equipment. It would be a simple blood test, not unlike tests that measure blood-sugar levels for diabetics.
The initial results have gained attention elsewhere as the team and University of Nebraska Medical Center’s technology transfer office, UNeMed Corporation (Omaha, NE, USA) are currently in preliminary discussions with several companies on how to translate the results into products that can better factor in a patient’s risk of heart attack. The scientists hope the test could be used to definitively inform younger patients in their forties, thirties, or even their twenties, whether or not they will develop potentially fatal heart disease. The physicians suggest that perhaps even patients who are still teenagers could get early warnings, and begin taking preventative measures.
Dan Anderson, MD, PhD, an assistant professor in the Division of Cardiology at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, said, “In the current realm of understanding disease, we know that inflammation is important in cardiovascular disease. But we really don''t understand a lot about why or how. We should have seen and recognized this decades prior, and prevented it. People tend to feel okay and think they''re okay. But they''re not even seeing the tip of the iceberg." According to the team, about 30% of people who have heart disease somehow slip through the cracks, in what Prof. Anderson terms “a failure of medicine.”