In a first-of-its-kind study, researchers have identified a unique method to diagnose alcohol-induced heart failure by a genomic "fingerprint", which can also reverse it by therapeutic interventions.
Usually, those having dilated cardiomyopathy have an enlarged and stretched heart cavity, generally too weak to pump normally and may lead to heart failure.
This is usually attributed to excessive drinking. But, it's not easy to differentiate between alcohol-induced heart failure and heart failure due to idiopathic dilated cardiomyopathy.
"Excessive alcohol consumption affects not only heart function but also its structure. These effects can be acute if the exposure is brief, but can become chronic with long-term drinking. Furthermore, long-term effects are more serious since they affect not only the function of heart muscle but also its structure in a non-reversible manner," said Judith K. Gwathmey, professor of medicine at Boston University School of Medicine, and corresponding author for the study.
She further added that heart failure is an end point rather than an early sign of defect.
"Which is why detection of the pathology is so important during the earlier phases of reduced heart function. With the fingerprinting or profiling that we now have at hand, we can begin to think of diagnostic test(s) or biomarker(s) that would enable earlier and more definitive diagnoses, better monitor clinical outcomes of cessation of drinking, as well as medical interventions," she said.
In the study, the researchers made use of a microarray, a technique used to sort out which genes change in response to a disease state. They examined an array - containing 1,143 heart-specific oligonucleotide probes - generally used to screen ribonucleic acid (RNA) samples from transplant recipients and organ donors with alcohol-related heart failure.
After comparing messenger RNA (mRNA) from the hearts of persons with alcohol-related heart failure with mRNA from the hearts of persons who did not engage in excessive drinking, they discovered a genomic "fingerprint" or profile of de-regulated genes linked with alcohol-induced heart failure in humans.
Gwathmey said that one of the best ways to address alcohol-induced heart failure is through aggressive early intervention.
"Now that we have this diagnostic marker or fingerprint, clinicians will be better able to monitor the progress of a patient who is being treated either medically or simply self reporting a cessation of drinking," she said.
Results are published in the recent issue of Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.