Most common type of heart failure can now be caught before it’s a problem

1 Nov 2018

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Scientists have discovered a biomarker for the most common type of heart failure, helping us diagnose it much sooner.

Heart failure with preserved ejection fraction (HFpEF) is the most common type of heart failure in the world, affecting millions of people worldwide. However, there has been no way for us to say with scientific accuracy that someone might be predisposed to the condition.

Now though, researchers from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in California have published findings on a new study revealing the discovery of a biomarker for HFpEF. It will not only allow doctors to diagnose the disease sooner, but also treat patients before that critical period of early intervention for lifesaving care has closed.

HFpEF is a condition where the heart can contract but has problems relaxing, limiting its ability to fill with blood between each beat and therefore lowering the amount of blood moving forward with each contraction. Symptoms of someone with the disease typically appear as fatigue, fluid weight gain, leg swelling and shortness of breath. Cases of it are expected to rise drastically over the coming decades.

‘Has the potential to impact millions of people’

To see if you are likely to develop HFpEF, all that would be required is a simple blood test that reveals if a patient’s heart is not making enough of an important protein, and whether there is an increase in the newly discovered biomarker.

Until this discovery, clinicians’ only option was to wait for the patient to show symptoms, and then use an echocardiogram to see how well the heart relaxed. However, this biomarker – cBIN1 Score (CS) – allows doctors to measure muscle deterioration and the protein that regulates the heart’s ability to both contract and relax.

So, if the blood test shows that the protein responsible for a healthy heart is low, CS levels should increase, indicating the likelihood a person would have HFPeF. Designed for use in an outpatient clinic setting, the test can predict the chances of a patient being admitted to the hospital in the next 12 months.

“More broadly, this discovery will allow the most at-risk patients – including older patients and patients with high blood pressure, diabetes or dyslipidaemia – to be checked during an annual exam from their primary care physician,” said Dr Eduardo Marbán of the research team. “This pivotal research has the potential to impact millions of people and serve as a critical tool for preventive heart care.”

The researchers now hope to identify speciality populations in which the CS biomarker could be useful, including sex-based differences, those who have undergone a heart transplant or valve replacement, and individuals with no known heart disease or risk factors.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic