DURHAM, N.C. -- By analyzing the "trash" left in blood by the body's metabolism, a team of cardiologists and geneticists at Duke University Medical Center has found what may be new markers for measuring cardiovascular health, to complement such traditional measures as cholesterol and triglycerides.
The markers also may prove useful as "early warning systems" for coronary artery disease, alerting physicians to patients who need preventive treatment to keep their disease from progressing to danger levels, according to the researchers.
The analysis is one of the first to use metabolomics -- that is, the systematic study of the unique chemical fingerprints that specific cellular processes leave behind -- to better understand the underlying biological pathways involved in families with coronary artery disease, the researchers said. They likened metabolomics to analyzing the contents of a trash can in order to learn about the people who filled the can.
The team measured minute amounts of metabolites, or byproducts of cellular metabolism, in the blood of people whose extended family members had a history of developing coronary artery disease at an early age. Using the measurements, the researchers generated "metabolite profiles" of each individual.
Based on these profiles, the researchers demonstrated that many of the metabolites have stronger heritabilities, a measure of genetic predisposition, than do conventional markers such as cholesterol. This finding suggests that it may be possible to identify people at an early age who would be most likely to develop coronary artery disease, the researchers said.
"The results of our studies may have significant clinical implications above and beyond the ability of identifying the genes that underlie the susceptibility to coronary artery disease," said cardiologist and study team leader Svati Shah, M.D., who reported the findings on Tuesday, Nov. 14, at the annual scientific sess
Contact: Richard Merritt
Duke University Medical Center