SAN DIEGO (Embargoed until 2 pm (ET), March 21, 2012) - New findings from a landmark research study led by Scripps Translational Science Institute (STSI) - a collaborative program between Scripps Health and The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) - shows a promising new blood test may be useful in helping doctors predict who is at risk for an imminent heart attack.
Results of the study titled, "Characterization of Circulating Endothelial Cells in Acute Myocardial Infarction," were published this week in Science Translational Medicine. The study concludes that circulating endothelial cells (CEC) from heart attack patients were abnormally large and misshapen and often appeared with multiple nuclei, which indicates that CECs are promising biomarkers for the prediction of acute ongoing arterial plaque rupture.
"The ability to diagnose an imminent heart attack has long been considered the holy grail of cardiovascular medicine," said Dr. Eric Topol, the study's principal investigator and director of STSI. "This has been a tremendous collaboration of two institutions on the research side, three health care systems in San Diego, and a life science industry leader, which has resulted in an important discovery that may help to change the future of cardiovascular medicine."
The study involved 50 patients who presented to emergency rooms with heart attacks at four acute care hospitals in San Diego. Using different cell isolation platforms, including the Veridex CellSearch System® , the researchers found that CEC counts and the cell structural features were dramatically altered in the heart attack population when compared to the healthy control group.
"We are pleased to have collaborated on this important investigational study, said Mark Connelly, Ph.D. Director, Cellular Research, Veridex. "CellSearch has proven to be a powerful tool for oncology research and the care of metastatic cancer patients. This study highlights the value of accurate rare cell capture and analysis in areas beyond oncology."
The study was co-authored by physicians and scientists from Scripps Health; STSI; TSRI; Veridex, LLC (a Johnson & Johnson company); Palomar Health; and SharpHealthCare. Funding came from a $2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health.
"When Palomar Health was approached to participate in a research study involving this population, we were quick to recognize the potential value of this work," said Palomar Health Director of Interventional Services Paul Patchen, RN. "We were honored to have been able to contribute to this groundbreaking research that may have significant benefit not only to our patients and community but to all patients with coronary artery disease."
The findings are significant, as more than 2.5 million U.S. individuals experience a heart attack or ischemic stroke, most commonly the result of obstructive coronary artery disease, according to Paddy Bennett, MD, lead investigator at STSI. If the arteries get abruptly and completely occluded by the buildup of fatty cholesterol, it will cause a massive heart attack that will likely lead to a sudden death, as was the case involving former NBC News Washington Bureau Chief Tim Russert.
"With some additional validation, the hope is to have this test developed for commercial use in next year or two," said Raghava Gollapudi, MD, who was the principal investigator from Sharp HealthCare. "This would be an ideal test to perform in an emergency room to determine if a patient is on the cusp of a heart attack or about to experience one in the next couple of weeks. Right now we can only test to detect if a patient is currently experiencing or has recently experienced a heart attack."
This study is an extension of Scripps Health's leadership in heart care and research. Scripps is currently building the $456 million Prebys Cardiovascular Institute, a center for innovation that will bring together top researchers, physicians and staff. The institute will incorporate leading-edge wireless technologies and individualized medicine for the best in patient care when it opens in 2015. Annually, more than 55,000 patients receive their cardiovascular care from Scripps, making it San Diego County's largest heart care provider. Scripps is the region's only cardiovascular program consistently recognized by U.S. News & World Report as one of the best in the country.
ABOUT SCRIPPS TRANSLATIONAL SCIENCE INSTITUTE
Founded in 2006, Scripps Translational Science Institute (STSI) is a major research initiative of Scripps Health, in collaboration with The Scripps Research Institute. STSI initiates research designed to help move basic research from the lab to the patient bedside, bridging the gap between basic science and clinical trials. STSI aims to replace the status-quo of one-size-fits-all-medicine with individualized health care that is based on the known genetic factors influencing health and disease and that takes advantage of advances in digital technology for real-time health monitoring.
ABOUT SCRIPPS HEALTH
Founded in 1924 by philanthropist Ellen Browning Scripps, Scripps Health is a $2.5 billion nonprofit integrated health system based in San Diego, Calif. Scripps treats a half-million patients annually through the dedication of 2,600 affiliated physicians and 13,000 employees among its five acute-care hospital campuses, home health care services, and an ambulatory care network of physician offices and 23 outpatient centers and clinics.
Recognized as a leader in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of disease, Scripps is also at the forefront of clinical research, genomic medicine, wireless health care and graduate medical education. With three highly respected graduate medical education programs, Scripps is a longstanding member of the Association of American Medical Colleges. More information can be found at www.scripps.org.