A new blood test for better diagnosis of heart failure at a far earlier stage has been proposed in research* presented at the British Cardiovascular Society Conference in Manchester.
Currently, clinicians routinely measure levels of a protein called B-type natriuretic peptide (BNP) in the blood as elevated levels in those living with heart disease are considered a sign of heart failure risk. However, BNP can be elevated due to many kinds of heart problems and altered by some medications, obesity, and with age.
Now researchers at Queen's University Belfast have discovered that measuring other proteins in the blood as well as BNP could potentially provide a more accurate diagnosis of heart failure.
The method they have developed simultaneously measures 25 proteins. They tested it in more than 400 blood samples, collected from individuals with and without heart failure, to see if the proteins could detect which individuals had heart failure and which did not. They found that the test offered a more accurate identification of heart failure than measurement of BNP alone.
Dr Claire Tonry, research fellow at the Wellcome-Wolfson Institute for Experimental Medicine, Queen's University Belfast, said: "There's an urgent need to develop tests that can diagnose heart failure at an earlier stage and with greater accuracy in order to improve outcomes for patients with the disease.
"It's difficult to measure multiple biomarkers in blood in a single test but, through our method, we were able to quickly measure multiple proteins from the small amount of blood that's routinely collected by clinicians for measurement of BNP.
"The results from the test are promising and we're now carrying out further research to see if this will be a clinically useful tool for diagnosis of heart failure."
Dr Sonya Babu-Narayan, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation, said: "It is vital that heart failure is diagnosed as soon as possible, given there are treatments to delay its progression and to treat symptoms. It is early days but if new blood tests like this yield earlier and more accurate heart failure diagnosis, people living with heart failure could receive treatment sooner. This will help them to better manage their symptoms so they can live full and active lives for longer."
The research has been funded through the Queen's University Belfast Alumni fund, with additional funding from Enterprise Ireland and the Health Research Board.
*Tonry C, Glezeva N, Rooney C, et al. BS15 Multiplexed measurement of protein biomarkers of cardiovascular disease in blood. Heart 2019;105:A149.