Scientists are developing a simple and inexpensive test that can detect a heart attack up to a fortnight in advance.
A simple blood test could predict a heart attack weeks before it occurs
A heart attack is a medical emergency in which the supply of blood to the heart is suddenly blocked, which can seriously damage the heart muscles. If left untreated the heart muscles will start to die.
Researchers from Scripps Health in La Jolla, California, found that heart attack patients had much higher concentrations of a type of cell called circulating endothelial cells.
Circulating endothelial cells (CECs) line arteries through the body. CECs are most likely to be released by the rupturing of the arteries leading up to a heart attack.
The study, published in the Science Translational Medicine journal, looked at 50 patients who had recently suffered heart attacks.
They found that these patients had on average between 12 and 21 circulating CECs per millimetre of blood, compared with two and five CECs in healthy people. The CECs were also more likely to be large and misshapen.
Now, the U.S researchers believe it will be possible to predict heart attacks up to a fortnight in advance by measuring a build-up of CECs in the blood.
There are about 124,000 heart attacks in Britain each year, with more than one in three sufferers dying before they reach hospital.
Dr Raghava Gollapudi, one of the lead researchers, 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. With some additional validation, the hope is to have this test developed for commercial use in next year or two."
Patients with private medical insurance will have access to new drugs and treatments not available on the NHS, so compare health insurance online now.
© ActiveQuote Ltd. 2012