Scripps researchers develop blood test to predict heart attack

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Originally published on January 10, 2014

A novel blood test developed by a team at the Scripps Research Institute may help diagnose patients at high risk for heart attacks.

The new test, called HD-CEC Assay, detects for endothelial cells in circulation as an indicator for risk of heart attack.

Being able to "measure and characterize [endothelial cells] in the blood of specific patient populations is a beautiful way of diagnosing disease and early intervention," said study co-author Peter Kuhn in a Live Science report.

When plaque ruptures, it dislodges surrounding endothelial cells into circulation. The ruptured plaque circulates the bloodstream and causes a heart attack when it lodges into a coronary artery, cutting off blood flow and nutrients to heart muscles.

To diagnose for risk for heart attacks, a blood sample is collected from the patient. Antibodies are used to detect endothelial cells that may have been released into circulation from ruptured plaque. Presence of these cells point to a high risk of heart attack.

Data from the team's study suggests that healthy individuals have fewer than one endothelial cell in every millimeter of blood, in contrast to patients who are sampled immediately after a heart attack, with "more than 20 [endothelial cells] in a millimeter of blood," Kuhn said in the Live Science report.

The turnaround time for this test is currently several hours but is expected to be shortened, Kuhn said.

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