Antwerp scientists track risk for sudden cardiac death


Antwerp University researchers have developed a new blood test to identify patients’ risk for sudden cardiac death, a disorder that has mostly affected young, seemingly healthy athletes

Could save many lives

Antwerp University (UA), the University Hospital of Antwerp (UZA) and biotech company Multiplicom have developed an innovative genetic blood test to track the risk of sudden cardiac death. Multiplicom, a university spin-off company headquartered in Niel, Antwerp province, specialises in creating molecular tests and offered its knowhow and technology to the UA and UZA medical researchers.

The new PED MASTR test, which took a year to develop, will considerably improve testing for the risk of sudden cardiac arrest. It is estimated that one in 1,000 people are at risk of dying from such heart failure. The disorder especially affects young, seemingly healthy people, often while they’re engaging in intense physical exercise like marathons or football matches. In May, a 28-year-old runner died from sudden cardiac death during the 20km run through Brussels.

“The risk for these cardiac arrhythmia is difficult for cardiologists to determine,” says Dirk Pollet, CEO of Multiplicom. “The abnormalities are not always clearly visible on ECGs.”

Genetic blood tests are very useful in testing for the disorder, since genetic predisposition plays a major role. Family members of people who suffered a sudden cardiac arrest have a 50% chance of inheriting the genetic predisposition for the heart problem.

“Until now, the genetic blood tests could only analyse one or two genes that may cause sudden cardiac arrest,” Pollet explains. “But with our test kit, doctors can examine all important 51 genes at one time and thus detect dangerous mutations much more easily.”

Those with such a mutation have a 90% higher risk of suffering from sudden cardiac arrest at some point in their lives.

The test also allows doctors to arrive at a much quicker diagnosis than was previously possible. “Instead of at least six months to analyse one or two genes in a blood sample in the lab, our test makes it possible to get a result on 51 genes in a few weeks,” Pollet says. Doctors can thus more quickly take targeted preventive measures, which in turn could save lives.

The test is already being used at the UZA medical genetics centre and will be launched on the European market in September. The test costs around €1,300, but the medical insurance agency Riziv has said it will make efforts to make it more affordable in Belgium. IWT, the Flemish government’s agency for innovation through science and technology, supported development of the PED MASTR test with a €100,000 grant.

Photo caption: A runner seeks refreshment during the recent 20km of Brussels

Photo courtesy 20km of Brussels

Antwerp University researchers have developed a new blood test to identify patients’ risk for sudden cardiac death, a disorder that has mostly affected young, seemingly healthy athletes.

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University of Antwerp

The University of Antwerp is Flanders’ youngest university, but it has quickly made a name for itself in natural and biomedical science research. It is the region’s third-largest university.
Merger - The university was born from the merger of three institutions with roots dating back to 1852.
Ranking - The university placed 13th in the World University Ranking “Top 50 Universities Under 50 years”.
Epidemiology - It was the first university in Flanders to offer a Master’s degree in epidemiology.
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