Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Blood Test Predicts the Risk of Heart Attack

Melbourne researchers have developed a blood test that improves predictions of the long-term risk of heart attack or death in people with severe coronary artery disease.

Coronary artery disease is a condition in which the heart’s own blood supply is narrowed or blocked due to a build-up of plaque. It can lead to chest pain (angina), shortness of breath or a heart attack. As it progresses it may cause permanent heart damage, leading to heart failure. High blood pressure, unhealthy cholesterol levels and diabetes increase the risk of it developing.

The study, published in PLOS One (, found that patients with coronary artery disease who had a high level of the enzyme ACE2 were more likely to die or suffer from a heart attack over the next 10 years.

Prof Louise Burrell of Austin Health and the University of Melbourne says circulating ACE2 levels in healthy people are low, but they increase once cardiovascular disease or risk factors are present, including heart failure, atrial fibrillation, kidney disease and diabetes.

The study recruited 79 patients with coronary artery disease and followed them up long-term. Over the next 10 years, heart failure, heart attacks and death occurred in 46% of patients, and this occurred more often in those with the highest ACE2 levels.

“This new blood test helped identify such patients who may derive benefit from more aggressive treatment,” Burrell says. “Future studies are planned to investigate if intensification of the medical treatment in those patients will reduce the risk of death. If this were the case, the ACE2 blood test could be offered to all patients with coronary artery disease as part of their risk assessment.”