Scientists have developed a new blood test they say can accurately identify individuals at very high risk of a heart attack.
The test, developed by medical experts at The Scripps Research Institute in California, relies on a new "fluid biopsy" technique that flags specific cells in the bloodstream strongly linked to heart attacks.
The technique, reported in the journal Physical Biology, works by identifying so-called endothelial cells (CECs) and has been successful in distinguishing patients undergoing treatment for a recent heart attack from healthy individuals.
The researchers believe the so-called HD-CEC test — short for High-Definition Circulating Endothelial Cell test — can be used on patients who have yet to experience a heart attack as a predictive indicator they are at high risk.
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"The goal of this paper was to establish evidence that these circulating endothelial cells can be detected reliably in patients following a heart attack and do not exist in healthy controls, which we have achieved," said Peter Kuhn. "Our results were so significant relative to the healthy [individuals] that the obvious next step is to assess the usefulness of the test in identifying patients during the early stages of a heart attack."
Endothelial cells, which line the walls of the arteries, have been strongly linked to ongoing heart attacks when circulating in the bloodstream. They are believed to be present when plaque builds up in blood vessels and ruptures, causing inflammation in the arteries that can lead to clots that cause heart attacks.
To assess the accuracy of the new test, the researchers used it to check the blood samples of 79 patients who had experienced a heart attack at the time of sampling and compared them to 32 healthy individuals.
The test showed CECs were significantly elevated in the heart attack patients but not the healthy individuals.
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