A new blood test may in future help doctors identify patients at risk of a heart attack, scientists have said.
Research has revealed unusual cells circulating in the blood of recent heart attack sufferers.
Experts believe spotting them early may show when a high-risk patient is about to have an attack.
The circulating endothelial cells (CECs) are abnormally large, misshapen, and often have multiple nuclei.
Scientists in San Diego, USA, found that 50 patients admitted to hospitals as emergency cases after a heart attack had high numbers of the cells in their blood.
Lead investigator Dr Eric Topol, from Scripps Translational Science Institute (STSI), said: “The ability to diagnose an imminent heart attack has long been considered the Holy Grail of cardiovascular medicine.”
Working with industry colleagues, the scientists hope to develop a commercial test within the next two years.
Dr Raghava Gollapudi, from the company Sharp HealthCare, who took part in the research said: “This would be an ideal test to perform in an emergency room to determine if a patient is on the cusp of a heart attack or about to experience one in the next couple of weeks.
“Right now we can only test to detect if a patient is currently experiencing or has recently experienced a heart attack.”
- Damani S, et al. Characterization of Circulating Endothelial Cells in Acute Myocardial Infarction. Science Translational Medicine 2012; Advance online publication.