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Heart-disease breakthrough claimed.

A RAPID new blood test developed by British scientists could help predict the likelihood of a heart attack and ``revolutionise'' cardiac medicine in the future, it was claimed yesterday. The simple and cheap procedure is part of a new science called metabonomics and requires only a couple of drops of blood.

Researchers from the University of Cambridge and Imperial College, London, believe the test could eventually be used to screen for other diseases such as cancer.

Trials of the test are currently under way at Papworth Hospital, Cambridge, and if successful, could lead to it being widely available within two years.

Dr David Grainger, of the University of Cambridge and a senior research fellow with the British Heart Foundation, told the latest edition of Nature Medicine, ``Thousands of people die in the UK each year from heart attacks. Through new tech-niques such as this, doctors may be able to provide effective screening services, saving many lives.''

The tests involve measuring magnetic properties of molecules in the blood samples using high-frequency radio waves. They are then analysed for signs of abnormalities on an advanced computer programme.

Currently, the most effective method of testing for coronary heart disease is by an angiography.

But although the procedure is effective at showing how much blood to the heart is obstructed, it is both costly to the NHS and highly invasive to the patient.

In a small number of cases, it can also have serious adverse effects, including stroke and kidney damage. Professor Jeremy Nicholson, another researcher from Imperial College, London, said, ``This new test could completely revolutionise heart medicine.

``Coronary heart disease is a major cause of mortality and morbidity, affecting as many as one in three individuals before the age of 70 in the developing world. Although epidemiological studies have proven effective in underpinning public health policy on a range of issues such as smoking and healthier diets, they have not been effective in diagnosing the presence of heart disease on an individual by individual basis.''

Metabonomics was originally developed to test the toxic effects of drugs, but was also found to have other clinical applications.

It is described as a ``holistic'' approach to examining dynamic changes in the human body.

Prof Nicholson said, ``Atherosclerosis (thickening of the arteries) is one example of many major diseases that in the future will be diagnosed more efficiently using this type of ap-proach.''
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Nov 25, 2002
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