Research on biomarkers in the blood of patients has given way to important discoveries regarding cardiovascular diseases. Recently another discovery has been made. An Italian study, published in the prestigious journal Plos One, discovered a new genetic biomarker that identifies patients most at risk of suffering a heart attack. Promptly identifying these patients allows urgent action to be taken and can probably save their lives.
Analyzing blood circulation to determine a patient’s future
Considering 70,000 people each year in Italy die or remain disabled due to a cardiovascular disease or -one of its most common complications- a heart attack, makes this discovery all the more important. Almost all acute coronary syndromes are characterized by coronary artery disease (CAD), which is caused by diverse factors linked to life style and heredity. Understanding the correlation between these two variables was the objective of the pilot study carried out in a joint effort between researchers from the Laboratory of Medical Genetics of the Policlinico Tor Vergata, led by Giuseppe Novelli, and researchers from the Department of Cardiology at the Tor Vergata University, directed by Franco Romeo.
Both patients with stable coronary artery disease (who are not at risk of a heart attack) and patients with unstable coronary artery disease (who have had a heart attack) were examined in order to identify molecular variants that act like biomarkers and, consequently, detect patients that may have an acute cardiac event in the near future. The researchers specifically analyzed the expression of non-coding RNAs (which do not produce proteins) that circulate within the blood and are called microRNAs (miRNAs). These molecules work like switches and have a fundamental role in regulating genetic expression. They control biological processes like cellular proliferation, lipid metabolism and the development of tumors.
Level of miR-423 biomarkers identify highest risk patients
The research team carried out an in-depth molecular analysis of 84 different miRNAs circulating in the blood and identified abnormal behavior in miR-423. This biomarker demonstrated very low levels in patients with unstable CAD immediately after an acute heart attack compared to patients with stable CAD.
Expression levels of miR-423 were found increased in the same patients six months after the acute cardiac event, rising to levels that were equal to those in patients with stable CAD. This result suggests that there is a correlation between expression levels and the probability of a heart attack. Biomarker miR-423 is not the first heart attack biomarker to be identified, but up until now, it is the most relevant. Among patients with CAD, the biomarker can identify those with the most probability of having an acute event, allowing urgent action to be taken. Furthermore, this biomarker allows for a more accurate diagnosis and the application of ad hoc treatments, in accordance with principles of precision medicine.
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