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    Dec 2009


    Default Scripps Institute develops simple blood test to predict heart attacks and strokes

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    Roughly two and a half million Americans suffer a heart attack or a stroke each year. About 20% of these - half a million people - die in the aftermath. The proximate cause for both heart attack and stroke is a blood clot in the wrong place - a blood clot that could be prevented or minimized by anti-clot therapy if physicians knew that an attack or stroke was expected shortly. Recent findings from a research study led by Scripps Translational Science Institute (STSI) has identified a new blood test which has the promise of predicting heart attack or stroke weeks prior to their occurrence.

    The STSI study studied endothelial cells circulating in the blood stream of heart attack patients and healthy control subjects. These cells, which line the surface of blood vessels, appeared normal when sampled from healthy subjects. However, they found that circulating endothelial cells in blood samples from heart attack patients were highly abnormal - enlarged, misshapen, and possessing multiple nuclei.

    Heart attack and stroke generally begin with the rupture of pre-existing atheromas - accumulations of macrophage cells, lipids, calcium, and fibrous connective tissue that collect within artery walls. It now appears that the early stages of such ruptures produces abnormal endothelial cells which are swept away into the circulating blood. Circulating endothelial cells are therefore promising biomarkers for prediction of acute ongoing arterial plaque rupture - an event which often results in heart attack, stroke, or other circulatory problems.
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