And, the CECs in the heart-attack patients looked different (they were larger, not shaped normally, and had many nuclei) whenc compared to those CECs in the blood of the people within the control group.
They state in the abstract to their paper, 'Here, we characterize circulating endothelial cells (CECs) using an automated and clinically feasible CEC three-channel fluorescence microscopy assay in 50 consecutive patients with ST-segment elevation MI and 44 consecutive healthy controls.'
The authors conclude, 'These data indicate that CEC counts may serve as a promising clinical measure for the prediction of atherosclerotic plaque rupture events.' [Abstract]
For more on this story, please read the 3/22/2012 Time article 'Scientists Devise a Blood Test to Predict Heart Attack'.
The article states in part: 'It's also becoming clear that the CECs start sloughing off the vessel walls a few days to a week or so before fatty plaques rupture and form blood clots, causing a heart attack. That means that testing for CECs can help doctors predict who is on the verge of having an event.'
And, 'This could be especially helpful for the many patients who come into emergency rooms every day complaining of vague chest-tightening or tingling sensations, but show no signs of the elevated heart enzymes that would indicate a heart attack. These people are often sent home, only to come back several days later with a heart attack '” and by that time it's too late, the heart muscle may already be damaged.'
Dr. Eric Topol, the chief academic officer for Scripps Health and the lead author of the study, responds, 'It's one of the most common misdiagnoses in American medicine.'
Page three concludes with the future benefits of this new, potential blood test for heart attacks.