A new highly sensitive blood test has been devised by researchers at the University of Texas (UT) Southwestern medical Center in Dallas. Even on an otherwise healthy person, with no apparent symptoms, the new test can predict heart disease.
The test, normally used by emergency room physicians to confirm if a patient is suffering from a heart attack, can now be made sensitive enough to detect if a person has undiagnosed heart disease.
The test measures the amount of a protein called cardiac troponin T (cTnT) in the blood. People with detectable amounts of this protein in their blood are seven times more likely die from heart disease after six years.
Increased troponin levels indicates that the heart muscle has thickened or has possibly become weakened.
It is believed that early detection of troponin in the blood will become an efficient method of diagnosing heart disease, alongside other standard markers like cholesterol, blood pressure and glucose levels.
The results of the study have been published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
“This test is among the most powerful predictors of death in the general population we've seen so far,” said James de Lemos, associate professor of internal medicine at UT Southwestern and lead author of the study.
“It appears that the higher the troponin T, the more likely you are to have problems with your heart, and the worse you're going to do, regardless of your other risk factors."
A study of 3,500 people was conducted in conjunction with the Dallas Heart Study – a population oriented study designed to estimate social and biological differences in heart health in the community.
The participants aged between 30 – 65 years also underwent MRIs and CT scans to look at the heart and other organs. They concluded that men were three times more likely to have detectable amounts of the protein troponin in their blood and that African-American women were significantly more likely to have elevated amounts compared to Hispanic or white women.
“This study was designed to be representative of communities throughout the United States where there is a high prevalence of obesity, untreated hypertension and diabetes – just as there is in Dallas,” said de Lemos.
The new test has not been approved for use by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) but it has been approved for use in Europe.