Researchers see microRNAs as prognostic markers for heart failure

Systolic heart failure--when the heart becomes weakened and enlarged--reduces the effective pumping of blood around the body. Symptoms include breathlessness, tiredness, cough, fluid buildup, weight gain and even confusion and nausea.

Treating heart failure correctly reduces patient distress and disability and helps manage the healthcare burden, and, to this end, researchers in Israel have isolated a blood-based biomarker that could help to stratify heart failure patients by risk and make diagnosis faster and simpler.

MicroRNAs are noncoding stretches of RNA that seem to contribute to the pathogenesis of heart failure. In a paper published online in European Journal of Heart Failure on Nov. 25, researchers at Rosetta Genomics and the Department of Cardiovascular Medicine, Lady Davis Carmel Medical Center in Haifa, looked at microRNAs as potential biomarkers. Using blood samples from 30 patients with stable chronic systolic heart failure and 30 health controls, the researchers scored the increases in four different microRNAs (miR-423-5p, miR-320a, miR-22, and miR-92b). The scores could be used to separate heart failure and control patients with a sensitivity and specificity of 90%. The scores also tied in with clinical parameters already used for prognosis, and so could be used to confirm the expected outcome for the patient.

Dr. Offer Amir, of Lady Davis Carmel Medical Center & Heart Failure Clinic and the lead author of the study, said: "Diagnosis and risk stratification of patients with heart failure remain a challenge. The results of this study demonstrated that these four specific microRNAs may indeed serve as biomarkers for the diagnosis and risk stratification of heart failure patients. Early identification of patients at higher risk for severe heart failure could lead to earlier intervention that would potentially improve outcomes."

There is no single "gold standard" for diagnosis of heart failure, and treatment is expensive and complex. Finding an accurate prognostic biomarker could simplify treatment for physicians and patients and potentially cut costs by ensuring that the right patients get the right therapeutics at the right time. Rosetta Genomics expects to have a blood-based microRNA diagnostic test for heart failure on the market by the end of 2013.

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- see the abstract