An advanced blood test to diagnose heart attacks, currently in development by researchers at King’s College London, could be administered using a handheld device, according to research presented on June 5 at the British Cardiovascular Society conference in Manchester, U.K.
The test aims to provide a quick diagnosis to emergency departments without sending sample bloodwork to a laboratory for analysis.
The new test searches for levels of cardiac myosin-binding protein C (cMyC), which increase after a heart attack, similar to the conventional troponin protein test. But cMyC can be detected more quickly than troponin.
"Big heart attacks are often easy to diagnose with an ECG, but smaller heart attacks, which are more common and also life-threatening, are more challenging,” said Jeremy Pearson, PhD, associate medical director of the British Heart Foundation in a statement. “The troponin test has been used for around 20 years and is currently the most powerful tool we have for diagnosing such heart attacks, but there is always room for improvement.”
Researchers took blood from 776 patients who were heading to the hospital in an ambulance to test for cMyC. They found the protein was present in concentration high enough to be detected 95 percent of the time. The researchers noted the cMyC test outperformed the conventional troponin test, which could only diagnose 40 percent of patients using this method.
This test could lead to fewer patients in the hospital while trimming costs.
"These initial results with the cMyC test look very promising for patients, who could be more quickly diagnosed and treated or reassured and sent home,” Pearson concluded. “However, further research is necessary before it can be recommended as a replacement for the troponin test."
The researchers are now looking to develop a portable testing device, which could be used in areas with significant distance between patients and the nearest hospital.
"Now that we know that this test is sensitive enough to give an almost immediate heart attack diagnosis, we need to work on developing a testing device,” said lead researcher Thomas Kaier, MD, MRCP, of King’s College London. “We'd love to see this used in A&E departments within the next five years."