Hope for first blood test to detect deadly heart inflammation

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The first blood test to diagnose inflammation of the heart muscle (myocarditis) could be in use in as little as a year, following the discovery of a molecular signal in the blood by Queen Mary University of London researchers. The research, published today in the journal Circulation, offers hope of a quick and cheap way of diagnosing the condition.

Myocarditis is a difficult condition to diagnose. Symptoms include a temperature, fatigue, chest pain and shortness of breath, which can all be easily mistaken for other conditions. The gold standard method for diagnosis is a  biopsy, an expensive, invasive, and risky procedure which can sometimes still miss signs of the condition. It's estimated that one young person dies suddenly every week in the UK due to previously undiagnosed myocarditis.

Now, a team of researchers led by BHF Professor Federica Marelli-Berg at Queen Mary University of London have found that the presence of T-cells—a type of white  cell—expressing a molecule called cMet in the blood strongly indicates that a person has myocarditis. They say that cMet-expressing T cells levels could be detected through a routine blood test that could cost less than £50 with results available within hours.

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