Funds provided by the Netherlands Heart Foundation may have contributed to a potentially huge breakthrough in the way suspected heart attack sufferers are diagnosed: by DNA testing.  By quickly testing for certain DNA fragments and characteristics it may now be possible to detect a heart attack much more rapidly according to a study published by the medical journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology.

The process for checking for a patient for potential cardiac arrest can be a long and dangerous procedure.  While attempting to stabilize a patient during whatever medical issue is provoking the need for urgent care, precious time can be lost while doctors scramble to eliminate and include potential causes for the patient’s condition.  Many times hospitals, ambulance services and of course medical insurance providers spend literally tens of millions of dollars annually on tests, transport, and other needless procedures when heart attack is suspected but the problem turns out to be much less critical such as exhaustion, muscle cramps, etc. The funds donated by the Netherlands Heart Foundation may have hugely reduced the future of public health care expenditure. The ability to test and immediately conclusively determine if a medical patient is in fact in cardiac arrest or the event has just happened, much medical waste and human suffering can potentially be reduced. This is a move towards what is called personalised medicine; genetic testing has evolved in such a way that today you can confirm your genetic predisposition to countless diseases like Alzheimer’s, celiac disease, Lupus and diabetes. These tests can help increase life expectancy and health. Click here to read more.

DNA testing for cardiac arrest: The science

For the medical community and the public at large, the option to quickly and effectively diagnosis and treat a cardiac arrest situation is obviously very advantageous.  The science behind how the potential diagnosis of a heart attack is complicated however and scientists are still not 100% convinced which processes exhibited by the DNA are exact clues and ones which may potentially contribute to the actual tightening of the blood vessels during cardiac arrest.

What scientists in the field of genetic testing have found for certain is that during or after a cardiac event such as a heart attack, DNA fragments are oftentimes present in the blood.  The shed DNA particles in question are caused by neutrophils.  Neutrophils play an important role in the immune system at the cellular level and are present in most instances when the human body is fighting off a pathogen such as a virus.  Scientists however have concluded that during and after a heart attack, the amount of these neutrophil cells is disproportionally high leading them to determine the attack and the cells are connected on some level.  The DNA is detected due to the fact that the over prevalence of these neutrophil cells causes apoptosis, or cell suicide, releasing fragmented cellular material into the blood stream.  At some point in the future If a test is developed  that can be applied at the clinical level such as an emergency room, a test to identify the presence of these fragmented DNA may be a way to conclusively diagnose the patient.

DNA fragments: Cause or result?

Where scientists now seem to be stumped an unable to come to a cohesive conclusion regarding fragment testing, is in how these DNA fragments actually function during the heart attack event.  It is known that extracellular DNA (or fragments) in the blood stream themselves can cause inflammation.  Inflammation in the blood vessels if already calcified significantly due to heart disease, could that in itself be potentially the catalyst for a heart attack.

To determine whether the cellular fragmentation is a direct result of a heart attack or more ominously a direct cause, scientists studied the CT heart image scans of 282 suspected coronary disease sufferers aged 34-83.  While examining these images the scientists determined that those who tested for higher DNA fragmentation coincidentally also shared another diagnosis: high levels of calcification or heart disease.

While more study is required to determine the exact role of the DNA fragments in the heart attack condition, it is evident that they play a major role.  For now biological testing for a person potentially having a heart attack is not yet available, however scientists believe the test will soon be commonplace and may even predict accurately heart attacks