05 May 2010

Nano-Bio-Chip For Diagnosing Heart Attacks Begins Human Trials

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A diagnostic tool developed by Rice University scientists to detect heart attacks using a person's saliva is being tested at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center (MEDVAMC) in collaboration with Baylor College of Medicine (BCM) in Houston

John T. McDevitt, professor of chemistry and bioengineering at Rice, and his team of researchers at Rice's BioScience Research Collaborative have developed a microchip sensor, the Nano-Bio-Chip, which processes saliva and yields on-the-spot results. McDevitt intends to establish Houston as the hub of a biomarker highway where Nano-Bio-Chips will be configured to diagnose a variety of diseases.

"The device works by analyzing saliva, looking for cardiac biomarkers of injury implicated in the heart attack," said Dr. Biykem Bozkurt, professor of medicine at BCM.

"We find salivary tests, when combined with electrocardiograms (ECG), can provide more accurate information than the ECG alone for patients with chest pain," McDevitt said. "Saliva-based tests have the potential to quickly diagnose heart-attack victims as well as to find false alarms."

Typically, when a heart attack occurs, emergency medical technicians or hospital staff use an ECG machine to review heart activity. If the ECG is abnormal, the patient is immediately moved to an area to be treated. Unfortunately, ECGs fail to correctly diagnose about a third of patients having a heart attack. These patients are monitored carefully in the emergency room, where further blood tests are used to look for certain biomarkers to verify whether a heart attack has occurred.

"At the DeBakey VA, we follow this same procedure but also include the saliva test to determine whether salivary biomarkers will perform similar to blood markers in diagnosing a heart attack," said Bozkurt, who is also chief of cardiology at the MEDVAMC. "The patients presenting with chest pain are enrolled from the VA emergency room after informed consent and provide a saliva swab as well as blood samples. It is anticipated that saliva will be an alternative or complementary technique to blood drawing for early diagnosis of heart attacks, ultimately for testing in the ambulance before arrival in the emergency room."

Over the next two years, samples from approximately 500 patients who come to the MEDVAMC emergency room with chest pain or heart attack-related symptoms will be collected.

(Medical News Today)

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