Researchers at Oregon Health and Science University claim that Gamma-prime fibrinogen test can identify people who are at risk for a heart attack, including thousands who don't have high cholesterol.
The new simple blood test measures gamma-prime fibrinogen, a component of the blood's clotting mechanism.
Elevated levels indicate greater likelihood of a heart attack, even when other signs don't point to cardiovascular trouble, says David H. Farrell, Ph.D., professor of pathology in the OHSU School of Medicine and a member of OHSU's Heart Research Center.
The results were published in Clinical Chemistry.
"Half a million people suffer fatal heart attacks each year," Farrell says. "About 250,000 of the patients who die have normal cholesterol and some of the patients with normal cholesterol also have elevated levels of gamma-prime fibrinogen. We think this is another risk factor that we should test for."
Farrell and his team confirmed the effectiveness of the gamma-prime fibrinogen test by analyzing 3,400 blood samples from the landmark Framingham Heart Study, the oldest and most prestigious cardiovascular disease study in the world.
In addition, OHSU's analysis of the Framingham samples found that patients with well-established heart attack risk factors, including cholesterol, high body mass index, smoking and diabetes also have elevated gamma-prime fibrinogen levels.
"We found that if your gamma-prime fibrinogen levels were in the top 25 percent, you had seven times greater odds of having coronary artery disease," Farrell says.