Saliva Can Help Diagnose Heart Attack

by Ann Blackford, UK Public Relations
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Early diagnosis of a heart attack may now be possible using only a few drops of saliva and a new nano-bio-chip, according to findings from a team of scientists at the UK colleges of dentistry and medicine, University of Louisville, University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, and University of Texas at Austin.

Since 2006, UK researchers have tested saliva from 56 people who had a heart attack and 59 healthy subjects for 32 proteins associated with atherosclerosis, thrombosis and acute coronary syndrome. The findings from the ongoing study show that not only are biochemicals associated with these conditions in higher concentrations in saliva of heart attack victims, but specific salivary biochemicals are as accurate in the diagnosis of heart attack as current blood serum tests, conducted when a patient having a heart attack is admitted to the hospital.

This new device takes advantage of the recent identification of a number of blood serum proteins that are significant contributors to—and indicators of—cardiac disease.

“These are truly exciting findings, since use of these tests could lead to more rapid diagnosis and faster entry of patients into treatment scenarios that can save lives,” says Craig Miller, a scientist with the UK Center for Oral Health Research. His colleague Jeffrey Ebersole says, “We are rapidly meeting our goal of identifying compounds in saliva that are diagnostic of heart attack.”

The nano-bio-chip test could someday be used to analyze a patient’s saliva on board an ambulance, at the dentist’s office or at a neighborhood drugstore, helping save lives and prevent damage from cardiac disease. The device is the size of a credit card and can produce results in as little as 15 minutes.

“Many heart attack victims, especially women, experience nonspecific symptoms and secure medical help too late, after permanent damage to the cardiac tissue has occurred,” says John McDevitt, a UT-Austin professor of chemistry and biochemistry, and designer of the nano-bio-chip. “Our tests promise to dramatically improve the accuracy and speed of cardiac diagnosis.”

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in developed countries, including the United States. In 2008, an estimated 770,000 Americans will have a new coronary attack, and about 430,000 will have a recurrent attack.

Photo of nano-bio-chip

New nano-bio-chip uses saliva to diagnose heart attack.

Glen Simmons, University of Texas

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