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Effort Could Lead to Blood Tests for Heart Problems

Framingham researchers and private sector biotech scientists will collaborate

TUESDAY, March 31 (HealthDay News) -- A new project to discover blood markers that could identify people at increased risk for heart disease and stroke has been launched by the Framingham Heart Study.

Researchers taking part in the initiative, called the Systems Approach to Biomarker Research in Cardiovascular Disease, will analyze about 1,000 blood biomarkers to determine which ones are associated with heart disease, metabolic syndrome and related risk factors.

"Imagine having a simple blood test to tell us if a patient is at high risk for a heart attack or stroke," Dr. Elizabeth Nabel, director of the U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, said in an institute news release. "We could do so much more to prevent or delay these often debilitating and deadly diseases."

The institute funds the Framingham Heart Study, which has followed residents of Framingham, Mass., and their offspring, since 1948. The study is conducted in collaboration with Boston University School of Medicine and School of Public Health.

In the new project, researchers will look for heart disease biomarkers in frozen blood samples, imaging studies and other medical test results gathered from more than 7,000 Framingham Heart Study participants of varying ages. The project will be conducted with BG Medicine, a Massachusetts-based biotechnology company that has developed technology to detect and validate subtle biological changes at the molecular level.

Because of the private company's involvement, researchers will use only materials from Framingham Heart Study participants who've consented to sharing their specimens and data with scientists from the commercial sector. Identities will be removed from all information shared with the company, according to the institute.

"This collaborative research effort will add to our understanding of the complex interactions between certain risk factors and disease," Dr. Karen Antman, dean of the Boston University Medical School, said in the news release.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about heart disease.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, news release, March 2009

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