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As published in the UConn Advance, September 8, 2008.

Researchers Develop New Method of Detecting Heart Failure

By Chris DeFrancesco

A simple blood test can indicate whether a patient’s heart is failing, according to doctors at the Health Center’s Pat and Jim Calhoun Cardiology Center.

Evidence from a continuing clinical research study being conducted at the Health Center suggests that a failing human heart releases the peptide, or protein fragment, identified as Caspase-3 p17.

Rather than use an invasive surgical procedure to confirm suspicions about a deficiency in the heart’s ability to circulate blood to the rest of the body, cardiologists can check a blood sample for the peptide, believed to be a marker, or indicator of heart failure.

“It’s a peptide that we think is released from injured tissue, such as the heart during an acute episode of congestive heart failure,” says Dr. Bruce Liang, director of the Calhoun Cardiology Center.

“[Checking a blood sample for this peptide is] a novel method that we’ve developed. We’re the first and only ones doing this.”

Liang, the lead investigator, presented his research at the American College of Cardiology’s annual scientific session in Chicago earlier this year. The study was published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

“This test appears to be helpful in detecting all degrees and all forms of heart failure, which gives it broad potential clinical utility,” Liang says.

“For people who have already had heart failure, it might predict how well they will do in the future. For people who have symptoms consistent with heart failure but may not have heart failure, a simple blood test could diagnose it. Or it could rule it out.”

A biomarker for acute heart failure would be both a diagnostic and prognostic tool for physicians. Scientific proof of the study’s findings could lead to an approved clinical testing method that can influence therapy and clinical decision making.

Although the research is still at an early phase, the test may even benefit patients involved in the study, Liang says, because it can yield additional information about a heart’s health.

“The beauty of the blood test is it’s simple and it’s quick and it’s non-invasive,” Liang says.

“This is like any other lab test that we do, except unlike any other lab test that we do, this one gives us a window on the viability of the heart.”

Dr. David Hager, Dr. Michael Gavin, Kim Dodge, Jayne Schumacher, and Mary Beth Barry collaborated on the research.