Saturday, May 24, 2008

Saliva test to diagnose heart attack

Identifying a heart attack in time is one of the biggest challenges we (in the age bracket of 30 to 50) face today. Junk food, crazy work hours, insufficient sleep and high stress – all of these factors associated with our lifestyle can lead to a heart attack or symptoms that are a precursor to an attack.
For example, junk food can lead to stomach ache, stress can lead to palpitation, insufficient sleep can lead to fatigue – so how does one know whether it is a heart attack or an innocuous bout of indigestion or breathlessness?
If researchers from the University of Texas at Austin are to be believed, very soon all you will need to do to identify a heart attack in time is to spit into a tube and take a simple saliva test using a chip. The research, if successful, will benefit millions across the world in preventing fatal conditions. Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in developed countries. This year, in the US alone, an estimated 770,000 Americans will have a new coronary attack, and about 430,000 will have a recurrent attack.
According to a media release from the university, the credit-card sized nano-bio-chip could be used to analyse a patient's saliva on board an ambulance, at the dentist’s office or at a neighborhood drugstore, and produce results in as little as 15 minutes. Sounds like science fiction? Read on to know more.
Recent research has indicated that there are a number of proteins in human blood that are significant contributors to heart attacks. As a result presence or absence of these proteins can be treated as indicators of cardiac disease. The team of researchers used this fact to develop a device that analyses these proteins and tells the patient whether a cardiac disorder is going to happen.
The method of detection is also simple – the patient spits into a tube which is transferred to the credit card sized device holding the nano-chip. This card is then inserted into an analyzer (just like one inserts a card into the ATM machine) and within 15 minutes the results are out! This is much better than the traditional blood tests, the results for which take more than hour. More often than not, it is this critical hour that leads to a life and death question.
However, we need to wait for some more time before the device is commercially available. Currently trials are on for making the device absolutely safe.

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