Washington, Apr 17 : A few drops of your saliva and a new nano-bio-chip may help diagnose a heart attack early.
The device, the size of a credit card, can produce results in as little as 15 minutes, say researchers at The University of Texas at Austin who developed it.
"Many heart attack victims, especially women, experience nonspecific symptoms and secure medical help too late after permanent damage to the cardiac tissue has occurred," says John T. McDevitt, principal investigator.
"Our tests promise to dramatically improve the accuracy and speed of cardiac diagnosis."
McDevitt and his colleagues at the University of Kentucky, University of Louisville, and The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, were helped by the recent identification of a number of blood serum proteins that are significant contributors to, and thus indicators of, cardiac disease.
Leveraging microelectronics components and microfabrication developed initially for the electronic industry, they developed a series of compact nano-bio-chip sensor devices that are biochemically-programmed to detect sets of these proteins in saliva.
The nano-bio-chip was then tested by boffins from the University of Kentucky College of Dentistry using the saliva of 56 people who had a heart attack and 59 healthy subjects.
The researchers tested for 32 proteins associated with atherosclerosis, thrombosis and acute coronary syndrome.
They found these proteins were in higher concentrations in saliva of heart attack victims, and that specific salivary proteins were as accurate in the diagnosis of heart attack as those found in blood serum using current testing methods.
"These are truly exciting findings, since use of these tests could lead to more rapid diagnosis and faster entry of patients into treatment scenarios that can save lives," said Dr. Craig S. Miller, of the Kentucky team.
The test can reveal that a patient is currently having a heart attack necessitating quick treatment. It can also tell a patient that they are at high risk of having a future heart attack.
The development of the test was reported at a recent meeting of the American Association for Dental Research.