Scientists have developed a simple blood test that may be able to predict whether a person is at high risk of suffering from a heart attack two weeks in advance, Medical News Today reports.The test came as a result of a study, published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, that measured circulating endothelial cells (CECs) in 50 patients who went to emergency rooms with heart attacks and 44 healthy volunteers.
Endothelial cells form the lining of the inside of blood vessels.
Researchers found that CECs from heart attack patients were more plentiful, abnormally large, misshapen and often appeared with multiple nuclei, indicating that CECs are promising biomarkers for the prediction of obstructive coronary artery disease.
Every year more than 2.5 million individuals experience a heart attack or ischemic stroke, which is most commonly the result of obstructive coronary artery disease.
If further studies prove the blood test is reliable, doctors will be able to intervene with patients after a prediction of obstructive coronary artery disease and thereby prevent a heart attack along with the subsequent damage it causes.
“The ability to diagnose an imminent heart attack has long been considered the holy grail of cardiovascular medicine,” said Dr. Eric Topol, the study’s principal investigator. “This has been a tremendous collaboration… which has resulted in an important discovery that may help to change the future of cardiovascular medicine.”
A heart attack occurs when an area of plaque ruptures in an artery, forming a blood clot that blocks blood flow to the heart and damages heart tissue.
Cardiologists believe that an attack typically commences days before the formation of the clot, when the walls of blood vessels weaken and the abnormal endothelial cells begin to cluster together.
Currently physicians can easily detect a heart attack that’s already underway or has just occurred. But every year tens of thousands of patients walk away from the doctor’s office after having passed a stress test only to suffer a devastating heart attack within a few weeks.
Researchers said that they hope to have a commercial test developed in the next year or two.
NOW WATCH: Briefing videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.