According to the Centers for Disease Control, someone in the U.S. has a heart attack about every 40 seconds.
Despite being a serious (and, unfortunately, common) medical condition, heart attacks are challenging to diagnose in a timely manner, despite needing to be if test results are to be accurate. And yet, even if someone experiencing a heart attack gets to the hospital quickly, it still takes time to get an official diagnosis and start treatment. While echocardiograms can quickly detect that a heart attack may be likely, it’s the results from a blood test, which can sometimes take hours to get, that confirms someone is having a heart attack. In addition to getting less accurate results, the longer a patient waits to receive treatment, the more damage the heart can sustain. Heart damage can lead to a range of complications in the long-term, such as heart failure.
According to a new study in Lab on a Chip, a new sensor developed by researchers at Notre Dame and the University of Florida could help diagnose if someone is experiencing a heart attack, potentially within 30 minutes of onset.
Specifically, the sensor works by targeting microRNA (miRNA), rather than proteins commonly targeted by most diagnostic blood tests (e.g., troponin). Researchers argued that miRNA have shown “great potential as rapid and discriminating biomarkers for acute myocardial infarction (AMI) diagnosis.” They also argue that targeting miRNA may help differentiate between an actual heart attack and a reperfusion injury, which is currently an unmet need in clinical practice.
The sensor is also notable because it is both quick (requiring less blood to make a speedy diagnosis) but also low in cost, making it a more affordable option for clinics that need to perform these tests. The research team noted that the sensor could offer an effective solution in situations when “cardiac catheterization is not readily available to determine the status of coronary reperfusion.”