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New Blood Test Flags Hidden Heart Disease

New Blood Test Flags Hidden Heart Disease


By    |   Monday, 24 October 2016 08:32 AM

A new blood test is being developed that may detect heart disease in people who show no signs of it.

The test works by measuring the immune system's reaction to inflammation — which has been linked to many diseases including arthritis and Alzheimer's disease.

In a nine-year-long study of 90 people without heart disease, the test, which assigns a number indicating risk, was better at predicting the condition than a CRP test or cholesterol testing, which is accurate only about half the time.

Researchers began their work based on the premise that as people age, their immune system begins to fail, and older people don’t respond as well to flu vaccinations. But the team, led by senior author Mark M. Davis, director of the Institute for Immunity, Transplantation and Infection at Stanford University, was able to draw a line between the participants’ vaccine response and levels of chronic inflammation, according to a report in Fox News. Inflammation is also tied to heart disease.

Davis and his team began by administering the flu shot to 29 people, 19 who were older and 10 who were younger, to study how their cells responded to the vaccine. They determined this response by studying how much of the vaccine ran through the participants’ blood.

Over the course of nine years, the number of participants would expand to 90 people: 60 over age 60, and 30 under age 40. They were all given the vaccine, and assessed annually with various tests to study their immune function and markers of inflammation.

The immune system's specialized white blood cells that fight infection talk to each other via molecules called cytokines. Cytokines are known to activate the immune system.
Davis and his team analyzed how participants’ immune cells responded to cytokine stimulation.

This stimulation triggers chemical changes in intracellular substances called STAT proteins, which in turn stimulates more immunological activity.

In the young patients, cytokine stimulation led to high activation of STAT proteins, but in the older group, STAT protein activity rose significantly less.

However, in the older patients, pre-stimulation levels of STAT protein activation were significantly higher than in those from young people, suggesting their immune systems are constantly in an overstimulated state.

“That suggests [older people are] already getting some kind of stimulation even if you’re not doing anything to them,” Davis said. “So they have a low level of cytokines in blood that is chronically stimulating white blood cells— that would be chronic inflammation, and it doesn’t suggest good things about how well your immune system might be functioning.”
Under that premise, researchers devised a cytokine response score. Higher scores signaled lower inflammation and greater immune response.

Researchers gathered the cytokine response scores of 40 older subjects and cross-referenced results from their cardiovascular health assessments, which they took up to two years later. They drew correlations between the cytokine response scores and the participants’ clinical signs of atherosclerosis, a disease wherein plaque accumulates in the arteries, as well as two other tests that measure the heart’s ability to relax between beats.

The scores were better at predicting signs of inflammation-based cardiovascular risk than the standard CRP test.

“We’re putting that data together and trying to create a profile of healthy people with different ages to say, ‘What’s normal?’ ‘What’s the normal range of someone who is reasonably healthy?’” Davis said. “And of course people are not always healthy, and in a long-range study they die of different things—cardiovascular disease and cancer—and ‘Can we see anything leading up to that that could be a signal of someone that’s in danger?’”

Davis said their cytokine response score test, though too complicated for commercial use now, could be simplified for wide usage in the future.

The study's results were published in the Cell Systems journal.

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A new blood test is being developed that may detect heart disease in people who show no signs of it.
heart, disease, immune, crp
Monday, 24 October 2016 08:32 AM
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