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Urine Test for Heart Disease Shows Promise
Date:4/29/2009

Noninvasive method detects dangerous levels of artery-blocking proteins

WEDNESDAY, April 29 (HealthDay News) -- A urine test to detect coronary artery disease has worked well in a small trial, German researchers report.

The test looks for fragments of the protein collagen, which plays a major role in blocking heart arteries, said study author Dr. Constantin von zur Muehlen, a fellow in cardiology at University Hospital Freiberg. He was scheduled to report the findings Wednesday at an American Heart Association meeting in Washington, D.C.

"Collagen forms a fibrous cap on the epithelium, the lining of the arteries," Muehlen explained. "These fibrous caps produce collagen fragments."

High concentrations of those fragments, called proteomes, in urine can signal atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), which can lead to a heart attack, Muehlen said.

The urine test was done for 67 people with symptoms of coronary artery disease, he said. Two techniques to detect proteins, mass spectrometry and capillary electrophoresis, were used to find levels of 17 protein fragments that the researchers had identified as being associated with atherosclerosis.

When the results were compared to coronary angiography, an X-ray exam that is a standard method for diagnosing atherosclerosis, the urine tests were found to be 84 percent accurate, Muehlen said.

But a urine test to detect heart disease will not be developed quickly, he said. The German researchers have gone back to the laboratory, working with a strain of mice genetically engineered to develop coronary artery disease as they age.

"We went to this mouse model and found that, over time, the pattern of proteomes becomes more heavily expressed," Muehlen said. "The older the animal, the more extreme the pattern will be."

While he hopes to do a larger human study, no timetable for one has been set, Muehlen said.

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