Promising peptide biomarker may help identify heart injury more quickly

Sir Charles Hercus Health Research Fellow Dr Chris Pemberton
from the University of Otago, Christchurch is researching a
promising new biomarker which could specifically and rapidly
identify heart injury.

Dr Pemberton and the team at the University’s Christchurch
Cardioendocrine Research Group have been working on a
peptide biomarker which was previously thought to be absent
from the circulation; however, preliminary evidence from a study
of heart attack patients suggests this peptide is in fact present.
The highest blood levels of this peptide were found to occur at
the time of patient admission to hospital and then drop over the
next four to eight hours. This has great potential to reduce the
time of diagnosis as this peptide peaks in blood much earlier than
established biomarkers such as Troponin T which requires a 6-12
hour wait combined with other tests such as ECG.

“This is exciting because it raises the possibility of doctors having
an answer in one to two hours as opposed to six or more,” Dr
Pemberton says. “Such a test would prove invaluable as the
heart suffers significant damage in the first 12 hours following a
heart attack with a greater cumulative damage over the next 48
hours. Therefore, quick diagnosis is essential as it allows earlier
introduction of appropriate therapies.”

Dr Pemberton says a lot of time, effort and human misery
surrounds the diagnosis of heart attacks and there is a real need
for a good test to help accurately diagnose them more quickly
and efficiently.

The research has sprung from the work of Professor Mark
Richards, who heads the Christchurch Cardioendocrine Research
Group. Over the least 10—15 years, the group has found that if
you measure blood levels of BNP, a peptide produced by the
heart, you have a good indicator for heart attack in the form of a
blood test. During heart attacks and heart failure, blood BNP levels
are markedly elevated and they accurately reflect how well
the heart is doing; thus, regular measurement of blood BNP is
also a good indicator of how well therapy is progressing.

This research is funded by the Health Research Council of New Zealand.