A Blood Test That Predicts Heart Disease
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heart disease

Ben Franklin is credited with saying that only two things in life are inevitable - death and taxes. Practically speaking, you can always file an extension with the IRS to delay your taxes. Wouldn't it be nice to be able to do the same with some of the leading causes of death? A new research diagnostic advance may make this a reality someday soon.

Two of the leading causes of death among Americans are heart disease and strokes. According to 2020 data from the CDC, heart disease was the leading cause of death at almost 700,000 reported deaths, and stroke was the fifth leading cause of death, with more than 160,000.

A new blood test developed by the biomedical technology company SomaLogic in Boulder, Colorado, focuses on proteins in the blood that could provide an early warning for heart disease and stroke patients. Existing risk models for heart and cardiovascular diseases are based on cholesterol levels, genetics, medical history, race, age, sex and blood pressure. While these have been helpful, further improvements would help save lives.

The research analyzed 5,000 proteins present in blood plasma. Plasma is the yellowish liquid component of your blood. The scientists analyzed plasma from almost 23,000 people to search for proteins that would allow a 4-year prediction of heart disease, heart attack, heart failure or stroke. To do this, the scientists used a specially programmed computer to look for patterns in the huge volume of data. There is truly power in numbers!

Their results identified 27 proteins that provided a molecular signature for future heart disease and stroke risk. A molecular signature is a pattern of molecules, proteins in this case, that point to a certain outcome. Because of the way proteins interact with cells in the rest of the body, we can use a molecular signature to predict a future outcome, almost like the ingredients in a recipe. These 27 proteins were part of ten different biochemical pathways in cells and 12 of them were related to known genetic traits associated with heart disease and/or stroke.

This new risk model allows individuals to be characterized from a low to high risk. High scores predict a 50% chance of an incident over the next 18 months and possibly death. This provides a clear warning to patients and their physicians for future possibility of serious disease consequences. This early warning could be a life saver to begin medical treatments, lifestyle changes and/or drugs to lower the chances of a severe event. The model worked for those that had a previous stroke or heart attack, which is an improvement over existing risk models, which do not perform well in this group of patients.

The patients' protein patterns changed as their disease risk changed, making this test valuable for following the effectiveness of treatments and medications. This test could also be used to evaluate new drug clinical trials or other interventions. This could be an important new tool that will save people's lives. We will watch the development of this new diagnostic closely.

For more information…

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