The heart is one of the most reliable parts of the body. It pumps day and night, delivering fresh oxygen and nutrients throughout the body. Unfortunately, there are times when the heart might not be able to keep up.
Cardiomyopathy is a sort of catch-all condition that describes when your heart can not pump blood effectively due to problems in the muscles of the heart. Restrictive cardiomyopathy is related to the build up of scar tissue, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is related to the “thickening” of the heart, and dilated cardiomyopathy is when the heart muscles stretch. While each of these is different, all prevent effective contraction of the heart.
Modern medicine relies on diagnostics to identify diseases so they can be treated properly and effectively. Cardiomyopathy is no different. Next-generation diagnostics aims at improving the power of diagnostic tests to identify diseases and their specific sub-types, but to do it much faster. In a new study out of the Puerta del Mar University Hospital in Spain, a team of researchers wanted to know if microRNA might be the way to go for such tests.
MicroRNA are small bits of genetic information that can regulate various things in a cell. A growing number of studies supports the use of microRNAs in the blood as biomarkers for many diseases. This study focused on identifying microRNAs that correlated with changes in left ventricular ejection fraction (a physiological indicator of many heart problems) in patients with dilated cardiomyopathy.
The study began by screening through miRNAs that were differentially expressed in patients with dilated cardiomyopathy. 179 hits were identified, with the team taking the best 26 to test. When they tried to see if any of these miRNAs could possibly be used to differentiate moderate from severe dilated cardiomyopathy, they found that only 14 miRNAs had any correlation with either. Of these 14, 3 were considered effective at differentiating moderate from severe dilated cardiomyopathy.
The team new that a powerful diagnostic tool often considers other variables beyond biomarkers, so they ran an analysis to see what variables commonly used in cardiovascular diagnostics would work with the microRNAs they identified. They found that when the microRNAs were used in conjunction with a few cardiac indicators (left bundle branch block, left ventricular end systolic dimension, systolic blood pressure, and smoking), the diagnostic model was quite powerful for severe dilated cardiomyopathy.
The diagnostic potential of miRNAs is quite promising in many disease cases. For dilated cardiomyopathy, this study identified three that when taken alongside a few clinical variables, could reliably diagnose the severe form of the disease.
The study concludes, “In conclusion, we identified a miRNAs fingerprint that is differentially expressed in the idiopathic DCMSEV population. This signature arises as a potential clinical biomarker to discriminate DCM etiology and stratify its risk, based on the LVEF.”