People who have a heart attack have unique cells in their blood and the team at the Scripps Research Institute in California is investigating whether testing people for these cells could predict who is about to have a heart attack, BBC News reported.
The researchers analyzed blood samples from 111 people and found that they could detect the difference between healthy people and heart attack patients. The study was published in the journal Physical Biology.
"The goal of this paper was to establish evidence that these circulating endothelial cells can be detected reliably in patients following a heart attack and do not exist in healthy controls, which we have achieved," said researcher Professor Peter Kuhn, BBC News reported.
"Our results were so significant relative to the healthy controls that the obvious next step is to assess the usefulness of the test in identifying patients during the early stages of a heart attack," he added.
"In the short to medium term, it is unlikely to change how people in the U.K. are treated as we already have good ways to treat and diagnose heart attacks, and targets to ensure rapid pain-to-treatment times," Dr. Mike Knapton, from the British Heart Foundation, told BBC News.
"This study appears to be laying the groundwork for future research to see if this test could be used to identify patients in the early stages of a heart attack," he added.