For the first time ever, new research suggests that the most common forms of heart disease may be detected in organs outside the heart. And if future studies confirm those findings, cardiologists might someday diagnose a person’s heart disease risk with a heart scan, cholesterol test and… urine sample?
The latest study, which comes from Baylor Research Institute’s metabology research ranks, could change the way the country’s “deadliest killer” is monitored in the future. Findings were recently published in the Journal of the American Heart Association (JAHA).
Currently, heart disease accounts for one in every four deaths in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But a Baylor-discovered biomarker, an indicator of a person’s disease risk, might improve survival numbers.
Led by Raphael Schiffmann, MD, director of Baylor’s Institute for Metabolic Disease, part of Baylor Research Institute, the study found that finding a certain urinary substance, Gb3, could mean a patient is at higher risk for near-term death from heart disease.
Originally, the trial was designed as a screening study for Fabry disease, a rare genetic condition that triggers heart problems. Dr. Schiffmann and his team tested the urine of patients to find elevated Gb3 levels, which is common in Fabry disease patients.
“To our surprise, we noticed after a few months that some heart disease patients who did not have Fabry disease did have elevated Gb3 in the urine,” Dr. Schiffmann said. “We also found that some of those patients had died in the short interval that had passed since we had last seen them for this screening study.”
Using statistical data, Dr. Schiffmann and his team found that heart disease patients with higher Gb3 levels face a higher risk of death, compared to those without normal amounts of the biomarker.
“This was a very surprising, yet encouraging, discovery, given the fact that Gb3 elevation was thought to be the exclusive hallmark of Fabry disease,” Dr. Schiffmann said.
“Remarkably, this biomarker is significantly different from existing ones and could be of great significance for the future study of heart disease.”
Continued research is needed to fully explore heart disease biomarkers. The research was performed as a result of collaboration between Baylor’s cardiology network through Baylor Health Care System and the Institute of Metabolic Disease. Financial support was received from The Lysosomal Disease Network (a part of the National Institute of Health Rare Diseases Clinical Research Network), Amicus Therapeutics Inc. and Shire Plc.