Early diagnosis of a heart attack may now be possible using only a few drops of saliva and a new nano-bio-chip, according to a study.
The nano-bio-chip assay, the size of a credit card, could be used to analyse a patient's saliva on board an ambulance, at the dentist's office or at a neighbourhood chemist's shop, helping save lives and prevent damage from cardiac disease.
"Many heart attack victims, especially women, experience non specific symptoms and secure medical help too late after permanent damage to the cardiac tissue has occurred," said John T McDevitt, designer of the bio-chip.
"Our tests promise to dramatically improve the accuracy and speed of cardiac diagnosis."
McDevitt, of the University of Texas, collaborated with scientists and clinicians from Universities of Kentucky, Louisville, and University of Texas Health Science Centre.
McDevitt and his collaborators took advantage of 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 micro-fabrication 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.
Researchers from the University of Kentucky College of Dentistry tested saliva from 56 people who had a heart attack and 59 healthy subjects 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.
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.
This year, an estimated 770,000 Americans will have a new coronary attack, and about 430,000 will have a recurrent attack.
These findings were presented at a recent meeting of the American Association for Dental Research.