A study conducted by Dr. Eric Topol and his team from Scripps Health has identified a way to better detect the presence of certain cells in a patient’s blood stream that doctors have known for years are indicators of an impending heart attack.
The cells, called circulating endothelial cells (CECs), were first associated with heart attack in 1999 when it was discovered that these cells are sloughed off from weakened blood vessel walls in the early stages of heart attack, which begin a few days to a week before a clot is formed and blood flow to the heart is blocked – the most damaging and final stage of a heart attack.
Dr. Topol’s study compared 50 patients who have had a heart attack with 40 healthy control patients and involved taking a closer look at the structure of CECs and the concentration at which they are found in patients who have had a heart attack.
These newly discovered identifying traits of CECs are what will now help scientists discern them from healthy cells. According to Dr. Topol:
“For the first time, we can isolate these cells through techniques that were not available in 1999. They are like a window into the process that underlies an imminent heart attack.”
This means that patients who present with the early signs of a heart attack – chest pain and tightening – will face less potential of being sent home due to the inability of doctors in the past to identify CECs as confirmation of an upcoming heart attack.
If you have any of the conditions that predispose you to heart attack – high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or coronary heart disease – make an appointment with a cardiologist today and prepare with our condition-specific patient guides.