WASHINGTON (AP) – Too often, people pass a cardiac checkup only to collapse with a heart attack days later. Now scientists have found a clue that one day may help doctors determine if a heart attack is imminent, in hopes of preventing it.
Most heart attacks happen when fatty deposits in an artery burst open, and a blood clot then forms to seal the break. If the clot is too big, it blocks off blood flow.
The problem: Today’s best tests can’t predict when that’s about to happen.
“We don’t have a way to get at whether an artery’s going to crack, the precursor to a heart attack,” said Dr. Eric Topol, director of California’s Scripps Translational Science Institute.
Wednesday, Scripps researchers reported a new lead – by searching people’s blood for cells that appear to flake off the lining of a severely diseased artery.
Topol’s team measured high levels of those cells, deformed ones, floating in the blood of 50 people who’d just had a heart attack. The research is reported in the journal Science Translational Medicine.
Next, Topol said his team soon will begin needed studies to learn how early those cells might appear before a heart attack, and if spotting them could allow use of clot-preventing drugs to ward off damage. Some San Diego emergency rooms will study an experimental blood test with chest-pain sufferers whose standard exams found no evidence of a heart attack, he said.
Don’t expect a test to predict heart attacks any time soon – a lot more research is needed, caution heart specialists not involved with the study. But they’re intrigued.
“This study is pretty exciting,” said Dr. Douglas Zipes of Indiana University and past president of the American College of Cardiology. It suggests those cells are harmed “not just in the minutes prior” to a heart attack, he said, “but probably hours, maybe even days” earlier.
“It’s a neat, provocative first step,” added Dr. William C. Little, cardiology chief at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. “But it is not a biomarker ready for prime time.”
About 935,000 people in the U.S. have a heart attack every year, according to government figures. Doctors can tell who’s at risk: People with high blood pressure and cholesterol, who smoke, have diabetes, are overweight or sedentary.
But there’s no way to tell when a heart attack is imminent. Tests can spot that an artery is narrowing, or if a heart attack is under way or already has damaged the heart muscle. They can’t tell if the plaque inside arteries is poised to rupture.
So it’s not that uncommon for someone to suffer a heart attack shortly after passing a stress test or being told that their chest pain was nothing to worry about.
Wednesday’s study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, investigated cells shed from the endothelium, or the lining of blood vessels, into the bloodstream. They’re called “circulating endothelial cells.”
First, Topol’s team paired with Veridex LLC, a Johnson & Johnson unit that makes technology used to find cancer cells floating in blood. Could it find these cardiovascular cells, too?
The team took blood samples from 50 heart attack patients – before they had any artery-disturbing tests or treatments – and from 44 healthy volunteers. They counted lots of the endothelial cells floating in the heart attack victims’ blood, and very little in the healthy people’s blood.
The big surprise: The cells in the heart patients were grossly deformed. “Sick cells,” is how Topol describes them.
The study couldn’t tell when those abnormal cells first appeared – and that’s key, said Wake Forest’s Little. It’s not clear how many heart attacks happen too suddenly for any warning period.
But Topol theorizes there are plaques that break apart gradually and may shed these cells for up to two weeks before the heart attack. He cites autopsy studies that found people’s arteries healed several plaque ruptures before the final one that killed them.
Topol said Scripps and Veridex have filed for a patent for a blood test to detect the abnormal cells.
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This Week’s Celebrity Instagrams (11/26-12/2)
30 photos Launch gallery
1. Little Legend and Puddy 😍😍😍😍
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2. "You on point Phife?" "all the time,Tip". 💥 #bannedfromnormal
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3. Vegan! The Impossible burger at Crossroads
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4. Lawrence #BeforeandAfterEpisodes 1-4: 184lbs 13% body fatEpisode 8: 196lbs 8% body fat S/O @coachdaveboxing with the works outs and @kildareriordan with the nutrition
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5. Jus haaaanngin out
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6. Meanwhile back at home in Atlanta GA someone mad they not on the 🛳. 😳
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7. No limits... Photo cred: Chris Bridges @ludacris
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8. new new
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9. Apparently my 260lbs is too much for the actual vines in the Hawaiian jungles to hold me without breaking and me falling hundreds of feet. So for safety purposes, I'm forced to swing thru #Jumanjj on wires strong enough to hold 12 adult buffaloes and 1 adult Rock. #OnSet #Jumanji #IronicallyIEatBuffaloDailyForLunch #MoreManThanNatureKnowsWhatToDoWith
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10. hey ma! 🎎#wcw 💙
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11. Surprise visit to our factories!!! #GoodAmerican #USA
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13. Peachy Keen 🔥✨⚡️
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14. If this don't look thankful I don't know what does. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. #UltraBlessed #24kMagic #SweetPotatoFly
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15. Late nights @nbcmarlon with the writers... we in here!!!
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16. There goes my baaaaaaaaabbbbyyyyy #QueenKingMagic!!! We're up to something! Ira BIG!!! Stay out our buisness -
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17. You want to win every game you play but when you come home to these faces... who cares. #ILoveYouGirls best part of my day, everyday!
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18. Steady,steady..... full size jenga.. "I got this one "???? Or do I ?
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19. Cornrows kind of day 😉@dontaysavoy2 you convinced me and I love. ❤️️
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20. #BrotherlyLove #tbt
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22. #basel #TeamLOVE @kingcombs
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23. Just introduced a special screening of @directher 's groundbreaking (must see) documentary @13thfilm with my brother @themichaelealy | @unitedblackout #blackoutblackfriday
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24. Me & Vanessa Williams giving #DuckLips #Pose on the set of #DaytimeDivas @vh1 - Coming Soon to a tv near you. Lol. - My make up done by @makeupsurgeon
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25. This picture just makes me wanna praise the Lord, you hear me!!!!!! Yes Lord brotha #TEDDYCAMPBELL What a #man !!! You are everything right on this picture husband ......... #gorgeous #stylish #classy #strong #masculine #king #sexy #debonair #gentlemenstyle And that #bible in your hand just seals the deal for me (probably cause i know that, that is what helped you become just as amazing as you look😘). While my heart and mind experiences the goodness of God at #church on Sundays, my eyes experiences the goodness of Teddy😍. Amen somebody🙌🏽. "Bless the Lord oh my soul and all that is within me bless his holy name" #myman #myhusband #goodman #blackman #dapperman #godlyman #goodfather #mybestfriend
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26. Yesterday was my mama's 53rd birthday!!!!! Got to celebrate with her all day. If this is what I have to look forward to I can't wait. Looking like a soft bucket a cocoa butter. Yaaaaaaaaaas! 😍😍😍 love you mommy!
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27. "Shout out to @PureAtlanta for getting the family right"....I'm loving this jogger. 😍😍
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28. This pic warms my heart ❤️ #myLogiebeans and aunt aunt umba @itowandabraxton 😘
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29. You will always be my baby😜. #HappyBirthdayReginae #mybaby18
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30. GC "Gods Child" Red on Red SweatSuit available now at www.MonicaApparel.com ... Take Your Crown wherever you go!! I'm pictured in a Medium... Go to the site now for other options ... cc: @trukernell
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