Physicians “are one step closer to a simple test that could predict whether a patient is about to have a heart attack – by using a blood sample to detect cells that have sloughed off of damaged blood vessel walls.” This finding, published on March 21, 2012 in the journal Science Translational Medicine, could potentially address ‘the greatest unmet need’ facing cardiologists, said lead author Dr. Eric Topol, a cardiologist at the Scripps Translational Science Institute in San Diego.” The findings are based on a study of 50 people who reported to four San Diego County hospitals while they were having a heart attack. Researchers compared blood samples of these “patients with 44 healthy volunteers, and found a much higher level of abnormal circulating endothelial cells, or CECs, according to the study. The study suggests those cells are harmed not just in the minutes prior to a heart attack, but probably hours, maybe even days’ earlier. The relationship of elevated CEC amounts to acute MI has been known for over a decade, but the CellSearch technology makes it possible to capture CEC data more quickly, efficiently, and robustly than ever before.
A commercially available point-of-care blood test based on this CEC signature will be available within about two years. The test will take about 20 to 30 minutes and could be performed on every patient presenting to the emergency department with chest pain. This assay will be used on a peripheral whole-blood sample before coronary angiography, which is important in the STEMI population because a coronary catheter disrupts plaques, leading to false elevations in circulating endothelial-cell count.
Source: The Heart.org