01 December 2022

Biomarker of myocarditis

The world's first blood test for myocarditis revealed inflammation of the heart

Maria Reznik, Pulsplus

British scientists have discovered a blood biomarker signaling the presence of myocarditis. It is hoped that the discovery will lead to the possibility of a rapid blood test to detect this deadly and difficult-to-diagnose inflammatory heart disease.

This condition is characterized by inflammation in the heart muscle, and it is often caused by viral or bacterial infections. The initial symptoms of myocarditis can be vague — fatigue, shortness of breath, mild fever — and can lead to a fatal heart attack within a few days if it is not diagnosed and treated.

Modern diagnostic tools for the detection of myocarditis are very inaccurate. To detect cardiac abnormalities, an MRI or X-ray can be performed, and ECG studies can give non-specific clues. Blood tests are also often used to track common markers of inflammation indicating myocarditis. However, currently the gold standard of the final diagnostic test for myocarditis is a biopsy of the heart tissue. But it is rarely performed due to its invasive nature.

The scientists' new study focused on T cells, the most important type of immune cells. It was found that in the presence of inflammation of the heart, T cells circulating in the bloodstream can express tyrosine protein kinase (c-Met).

It is believed that these c-Met-expressing T cells play a role in the development of myocarditis, and tracking their level in a blood test can directly indicate the presence of inflammation of the heart tissue.

So far, the study has been confirmed only in a small group of 34 patients with myocarditis. The level of c-Met-expressing T cells in their blood was significantly higher than in the healthy control group and the group of patients who had suffered heart attacks.

Early medical intervention is very important in the treatment of myocarditis. And this potential blood test could offer doctors this important tool to identify patients before the onset of heart failure.

This myocarditis test can be a simple addition to the usual blood tests prescribed by doctors. When viewed in combination with symptoms, the results may allow general practitioners to easily determine if their patients have myocarditis.

According to the scientists, if the next stages of the study are successful, a new blood test may be clinically available within the next two years.

Article by Fanti et al. Circulating c-Met–Expressing Memory T Cells Define Cardiac Autoimmunity is published in the journal Circulation.

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