Northern Ireland outfit advances a rapid but inexpensive heart attack test

A company based in Northern Ireland is advancing a rapid blood test to screen for heart attacks, allowing for doctors to more quickly treat affected patients. Randox Health's low-cost diagnostic has shown promise in early testing.

As the Daily Mirror reports, the test screens for H-FABP, a protein biomarker released after a heart attack, and it can deliver results in about 30 minutes. That's much faster than current testing used to screen for heart attacks, which can take several hours. The time lapse between diagnosis and treatment is something caregivers want to reduce, because the longer the wait, the greater the heart damage a patient can suffer. Early detection enables quicker treatment, which can reduce the duration of a patient's hospital stay and also help prevent long-term and costly health problems.

According to the story, the test has already made it through trials undertaken at Manchester Royal Infirmary in the U.K. If it ultimately reaches the market, the test would be a big-time healthcare bargain, something significant as providers seek to improve standards of care but also control cost. How expensive is the diagnostic? Each individual blood test would run about £10 ($16.77), according to the story, a major selling point when compared to higher-cost genetic tests priced at hundreds of dollars per use or more.

Academia and industry alike are working hard to develop diagnostic testing that can catch heart attacks earlier in the process or even predict that one is coming. It would treat a common health problem and could be lucrative to the party whose test hits the market first.

Some examples of the work in progress: Researchers at MedStar Washington Hospital Center and Emory University School of Medicine are developing a blood test that looks for three biomarkers (CRP, FDP and HSP70) that can predict a patient's likelihood of suffering a heart attack. Nanomix is planning to test a hand-held blood test device in the U.S. that would identify biomarkers including H-FABP that indicate a heart attack is happening. CytoVas, a spinout from Becton Dickinson and the University of Pennsylvania, is developing a blood test designed to measure the risk of heart attack or stroke for individual patients.

There's also competition from large med tech companies. Abbott ($ABT) has a CE-marked test that determines if a patient is having a heart attack by screening for troponin, another telltale biomarker.

- read the full Daily Mirror story

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