Wednesday, June 23, 2010

New Test for Heart Attacks

According to the June newsletter “VA Research Currents”, a new diagnostic tool to detect heart attacks using saliva is being tested at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center in Houston. The research is being done through a partnership with Baylor College of Medicine and Rice University’s BioScience Research Collaborative.

Chest pain brings about five million people to emergency rooms each year, but 80 percent are not suffering heart attacks. Electrocardiograms are often inconclusive and blood tests that look for biomarkers can take several hours.

The device works by analyzing saliva to look for cardiac biomarkers of injury implicated in a heart attack. The device called the Nano-Bio-Chip was developed by Rice bioengineer John McDevitt, PhD plus he is the inventor of a “lab-on-a-chip” system to diagnose oral cancer. McDevitt envisions Houston becoming the hub of a biomarker highway where the biochip will be configured to diagnose a variety of diseases.

With the Nano-Bio-Chip, gums are swabbed and the saliva is transferred to the disposable microchip. The chip is then inserted into an analyzer and within a few minutes, the saliva sample is checked for results. McDevitt finds that the electrocardiograms are able to provide more accurate information when combined with the saliva test.

Over the next two years, some 500 ER patients at the Houston VA are expected to take part in the study. It is anticipated that this test will be an alternative or complementary technique to use to draw blood when making an early heart attack diagnosis and it is hoped that ultimately the testing will be done in the ambulance before the patient arrives in the emergency room.