Aussie researchers develop new blood test to better predict heart attacks

SYDNEY, June 14 (Xinhua) -- Australian researchers said on Thursday that they had developed a blood test that can better predict the long-term risk of heart attack or death in people with severe coronary artery disease.

"We have come a long way in treating coronary artery disease but certain patients continue to be at high risk of dying. This new blood test helped identify such patients who may derive benefit from more aggressive treatment," Professor Louise Burrell, one of the researchers from the Austin Health medical group and the University of Melbourne behind the new test, said in a statement.

The test identifies the ACE2 enzyme found at high levels in patients with coronary artery disease who were more likely to die or suffer from a heart attack over the next 10 years, according to the researchers' findings published in the PLOS One scientific journal on Thursday.

Circulating levels of the enzyme are low in healthy people but increase once cardiovascular disease or risk factors are present, including heart failure, kidney disease and diabetes, Burrell said.

The researchers recruited 79 patients with coronary artery disease. Heart failure, heart attacks and death occurred in 46 percent of them and occurring is more often in those with the highest ACE2 levels.

"Future studies are planned to investigate if intensification of the medical treatment in those patients will reduce the risk of death. If this were the case, the ACE2 blood test could be offered to all patients with coronary artery disease as part of their risk assessment," Burrell said.

Coronary artery disease is a condition in which the heart's own blood supply is narrowed or blocked due to build-up of plaque, the researchers said. It can lead to chest pain, shortness of breath or a heart attack. It may subsequently cause permanent heart damage leading to heart failure. High blood pressure, unhealthy cholesterol levels and diabetes increase the risk of developing it.

Cardiovascular disease is a major cause of death in Australia, with more than 43,900 deaths attributed to the condition in 2016 alone, according to the health charity Heart Foundation.

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