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
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
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