Heart attacks are unpredictable, but that may soon change thanks to a recent study. Scientists have identified certain cells, called circulating endothelial cells (CECs), that are shed from weakened blood vessel walls and eventually clump together to block the flow of blood to the heart.
Dr. Eric Topol, lead author of the study published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, studied 50 patients who had a heart attack and found that their blood contained more than four times the concentration of CECs than a healthy person's blood. On top of a higher amount, the cells were bigger and misshapen!
Topol's research piggybacked off of others' findings that connected CECs to heart attacks in 1999, but has taken it futher, as he explained:
“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.”
Although a blood test to detect and prevent a coming heart attack is years away, Topol's team created a molecular profile for CECs that they hope will form the basis of a test in the future.
We wish the researcher's the best of luck as they continue their work because these findings could save thousands of lives!
[Image via AP Images.]