The discovery of genetic markers showing the presence and intensity of coronary artery disease means that a diagnosis could be made with a simple blood test, said a Duke cardiologist who led research on the link.
Such a blood test – showing not only the presence of coronary disease, but also the degree of blockage – could save millions of dollars annually by replacing risky procedures in which catheters are inserted into patients' arteries.
Detection of the disease, the leading cause of death in the United States, can require several echocardiograms, stress tests and the use of radiation in imaging techniques.
“A blood-based test to diagnose coronary artery disease would be less invasive and risky and would prevent patients from radiation exposure,” Duke cardiologist Dr. William Kraus said in a news release today as the research was published in a medical journal, “Circulation: Cardiovascular Genetics.”
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The finding that 14 specific genes tend to accompany the narrowing of arteries arose from research by Duke and CardioDx, a molecular-diagnostics company in California.
It's based on the examination of genes in 41 heart patients. Much larger trials are under way at 28 sites across the United States to provide needed validation.
Taken together, the 14 genes form a “signature” that indicates the presence of coronary artery disease, but are not a cause or effect of the disease, researchers said.
Duke scientist Geoffrey Ginsburg, one of several co-authors of the study, owns part of CardioDx, Duke's partner in the research, the university said.