Coronary Artery Disease

Could a Blood Test Show if You Have Increased Risk for Cardiovascular Death?

Researchers have identified a specific genome expression profile that is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular mortality in Caucasian subjects with coronary artery disease.

Note: CAD is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States; 50% of Americans over the age of 50 suffer from CAD.

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Researchers used gene expression profiles from blood samples of 338 patients being treated with cardiac catheterization at Emory University’s clinics in Atlanta. The participants were 65% male, mostly Caucasian, and aged 51-73. Of the participants, 70% of the people had heightened CAD and 18% experienced an acute myocardial infarction when blood samples were collected.

In the study that took place over a mean period of 2.4 years, 31 subjects who died of cardiovascular causes were compared to the profiles of living members in the group. The high-risk profile group included 25 out of the 31 deaths.

Furthermore, the comparison revealed that the genes affecting T-lymphocytes were down-regulated, while genes affecting inflammation were up-regulated.

“I think the main take away for physicians is that there are multiple tiers of data that can be used to evaluate risk of adverse events. Classical factors are great for evaluating generalized CAD risk, but emerging genotype, biochemical, and—as a result of our study—gene expression biomarkers can be used to identify people at highest risk of dying from a severe heart attack,” said Greg Gibson PhD, lead author of the study, and director of the Center for Integrative Genomics at Georgia Institute of Technology.

Researchers noted that this pattern doesn’t indicate the causes of the disease. In future studies, they further investigate the mechanism that explains the association and whether it is possible for people to modify their risk profile through behavioral and dietary changes.

“How best to incorporate this type of genomic profile into patient care is one of the next great challenges for genomic medicine,” Gibson said.

Researchers from Georgia Institute of Technology, Emory University, and Princeton University participated in the study; results are available at Genome Medicine.

-Michelle Canales


Jinhee K, Ghasemzadeh N, Eapen D, et al. Gene expression profiles associated with acute myocardial infarction and risk of cardiovascular death. Genome Medicine. 2014 May 30 [epub ahead of print] doi:10.1186/gm560.