The Prophetic Protein :: Who is at risk for heart attack?

Tense hours in the emergency room while tests confirm a heart attack may be rolled back to mere minutes, thanks to a telltale protein marker identified by Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine researchers. Better yet, a routine blood test for the nefarious protein could serve as an early warning to people at high risk :: Take steps now, and you may dodge the dangerous attack altogether.

When the proverbial elephant takes a seat on one’s chest, it is a decided hint: That person might be having a heart attack, or myocardial infarction (MI). Every 25 seconds, someone in the United States has one, according to the American Heart Association, but the oft-reported sensation of chest tightening or pain is just that-a clue. Even in the hospital, it can take eight to 12 hours for current tests to conclusively rule a heart attack in or out. Common alternative culprits in chest pain are intense heartburn or a gallstone attack.

Led by top physician-researcher Daniel I. Simon, MD, investigators at the School of Medicine, however, have discovered a marker of heart attack that promises to cuthours off the time for definitive MI diagnosis-to the tune of confirmation within 10 to 15 minutes of arriving at the emergency room. What’s more, a simple blood test for the novel myeloid-related protein-8/14 (MRP-8/14) marker could give long-used cholesterol screening a run for its money as a signal of MI in the making, years ahead of the cardiac attack.

“Though we gain great insight into patients’ potential risk for cardiovascular disease using conventional biomarkers, we are limited in identifying some people at risk,” says Douglas Vaughan, MD, professor of cardiology at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine and chair of its Department of Medicine. “An additional marker measured in people’s blood could valuably refine our ability to take care of patients with coronary artery disease.”

To hone in on the up-and-coming predictive protein MRP- 8/14, researchers applied an unprecedented scientific approach that scoured entire human genomes for cardiac warning signs. “We were on the hunt. We wanted to know what genes turn on or off in heart attack patients,” explains Dr. Simon, the Herman K. Hellerstein Professor of Cardiovascular Research at the School of Medicine and director of University Hospitals Harrington-McLaughlin Heart & Vascular Institute. Dr. Simon and his team of researchers identified MRP-8/14 as their best-bet marker for heart attack for use in emergency settings and as a potential companion to routine cholesterol screening in the doctor’s office.

Dr. Simon’s account is a tale of finding a little molecule with big potential-a project born in a lab in New England that has grown on a campus in Cleveland.

Read the full story at Medicus.

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