Identifying And Treating Heart Attacks May Get A Lot Easier

Australian scientists have developed an "early warning system" that has the potential to alert doctors before a heart attack.

What you need to know
  • Scientists claim to have developed an early warning system that could lead to heart attack prevention
  • A simple MRI scan could be used to diagnose those likely to suffer a heart attack
  • Researchers are preparing for human trials following success with lab mice

Australian researchers believe they have made a significant step towards preventing heart attacks.

World-first research, led by the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute, has shown it may be possible to both identify those at risk of a heart attack and prevent it from occurring.

After more than five years of research,  the Victor Chang Institute discovered a new two-step process which has proved successful on mice.

Researchers injected a chemical probe into the bloodstream, then an MRI scan was used to identify the presence of dangerous plaques in coronary arteries.

This has not been done before and could provide doctors with early sign that they need to intervene.

“It’s an early warning system. We now have the tools to potentially identify or even predict who is at high risk of a heart attack on a case-by-case basis, importantly, utilising a non-invasive test,” Prof Stocker said.

The underlying cause of a heart attack is the build up of a plaque made up of fatty material and inflammatory cells inside the heart's arteries.

Heart attacks killed an average of 22 Australians a day in 2016, a little less than one death an hour. Women are twice as likely as men to die from a heart attack, a recent study reported.

"This is a discovery that Australians should be very proud of," said Professor Bob Graham, executive director of the Victor Chang Institute.

Scientists found the plaque could be stabilised and is less prone to rupture with a drug that inhibits inflammation. It also decreased bleeding and clotting in the artery wall.

Researchers have been able to identify the presence of dangerous plaques using a chemical injection that highlights it on an MRI scan. IMAGE: Getty Images

The research was conducted in collaboration with the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute, the University of New South Wales, National University of Singapore and the University of Otago, has been published in the  European Heart Journal.