Breakthrough blood test to improve diagnosis of heart attacks

5 April 2017        

Category: Research

Blood in test tube

Researchers have developed a new blood test to diagnose heart attacks, thanks to BHF-funding. The study found that the new test is more sensitive and quicker in detecting heart damage than the current troponin test.

Using donated human heart muscle tissue, the team found that a protein called cardiac myosin-binding protein C was even more sensitive and better at detecting damage to the heart caused by a heart attack than the widely used troponin test.

Testing for a heart attack

As part of the study the scientists at King's College London looked at 4,000 patients at St Thomas's Hospital and found that 47 per cent of people tested for the troponin protein fell into the intermediate or 'maybe' group, meaning further tests and observation was needed to diagnose a heart attack.

In the UK there are nearly 200,000 hospital visits each year due to heart attacks, and many more visits due to chest pain, the majority of which are not serious. At present, the troponin test is successfully used to 'rule out' a heart attack in many of these patients, but diagnosing a heart attack can take longer.

Our Medical Director, Professor Sir Nilesh Samani, said: "Over a million people attend A and E with chest pain every year in the UK. The main challenge for doctors is identifying who is having a heart attack, so that people can be treated quickly and effectively. It’s also important that we can quickly and confidently rule out a heart attack in people with chest pain from other causes."

Translating research

This study was part-funded by the BHF's first ever Translational Award, a new type of grant which aims to bridge the gap between basic research and industry-funded clinical development. The findings from the study show that the award, presented to Professor Mike Marber, is already having a huge impact.

The researchers believe their new blood test - which could be available in the next six months to a year with industry support - could lead to more rapid diagnosis and enable those not suffering a heart attack to be sent home sooner.

Professor Samani added: "If found to be effective, this new approach could ensure thousands of patients get life-saving treatment more quickly, while reducing the burden on the NHS.”