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Utah researchers’ discovery may make predicting heart attacks possible

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Posted at 10:18 PM, Mar 30, 2014
and last updated 2014-03-31 00:18:12-04

MURRAY, Utah – Researchers at Intermountain Medical Center’s Heart Institute are excited about what may be a historic discovery: genetic markers that may predict when a person with heart disease is likely to have a heart attack.

Jeffrey Anderson is a cardiologist at IMC as well as a professor of medicine at the University of Utah, and he said they may be able to predict heart attacks in the ocming years.

“We have a lot of markers that tell us whether somebody is suffering a heart attack at that time, but to predict somebody who in the next two to six weeks might be prone to suffer a heart attack is something we've never been able to do," he said.

Anderson said identifying markers give researchers a starting point. Micro RNA in blood samples could indicate when something in the body is amiss. Anderson said, of the dozen markers they’ve found, there were two that are lower in a person who has suffered a heart attack.

He said that means the system the markers were supposed to regulate were out of control, which may have caused the heart attack. A decrease in those markers could indicate a heart attack before it happens.

“If we could see in advance when a heart attack is imminent and just get right in and intervene, that would be wonderful,” Anderson said.

Anderson said at-risk patients might be able to test for the markers on a daily basis, much the way those who are diabetic monitor their blood sugar levels.

Anderson said the study was small, so they need to replicate it with a larger sample size. He also said there still a great deal of questions that need to be answered, but he said he and his team hope to be able to predict a heart attack with accuracy within five years of work on the project.