The Future of Heart Disease

November 5, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
Seventy-two million people in the United States have high blood pressure, which can often lead to heart disease, but there's no simple formula to figure out who's going to develop it. Doctors say while advances in medicine have helped, some may still be at risk. A new test could iron out the confusion using a single drop of blood.Samuella Williams-Holmes lost her mother, who was thin and active, to heart disease at an early age.

"I was always under the impression that when you were thin you were going to be healthy," Samuella Williams-Holmes told Ivanhoe.

Now Williams-Holmes is dealing with her own high blood pressure problem.

"Diabetes and heart disease is in our family and we know we have to be careful," she said. "We have to watch it."

Soon there could be a way for doctors to predict if Williams-Holmes will follow in her family's footsteps and develop heart disease too.

"Once you can predict who's going to get it and you can detect it in its early phases, then you can use that information to develop new treatment algorithms, new treatment options," Michael Zile, M.D., a cardiologist at the Medical University of South Carolina and Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center in Charleston, S.C., explained to Ivanhoe.

Dr. Zile and Frank Spinale, M.D., Ph.D., a cardiovascular physician scientist also at the Medical University of South Carolina and Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center, developed a first-of-a-kind test -- a laser-driven computer system that measures up to 99 proteins. They're focusing on 25 that can pinpoint the risk of heart failure.

"What we hope to do is to be able to measure those 25 proteins in a tiny, tiny drop of blood," Dr. Spinale said.

So far, research shows the blood test works. With that information, doctors may be able pick out which patients will likely develop heart disease and treat them before they show symptoms.

"What's in it for the patient is a longer life, a better life and a likelihood of not developing heart failure," Dr. Zile said.

Williams-Holmes will continue to exercise and take medication to control her blood pressure, but she hopes this test will save others from the fear of uncertainty.

"I hope this makes some kind of difference for someone else," she said. "I pray that it does."

The simple blood test should be available in five years or less. Doctors expect new medications will be developed to target and alter the markers in the blood that have shown to cause harm.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE CONTACT:
Medical University of South Carolina
Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center
www.musc.edu
Interested study participants call: (843) 876-5010


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