Blood test could identify smokers at higher risk for heart disease

October 25, 2011

A simple blood test could someday quantify a smoker's lung toxicity and danger of heart disease, researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center have found.

Nearly one in five adults in the U.S. smoke, and smoking-related medical expenses and loss of productivity exceeds $167 billion annually, according to the . Levels of a lung protein found in the blood of smokers could indicate their risk of dangerous in blood vessels, said Dr. Anand Rohatgi, assistant professor of internal medicine at UT Southwestern and co-lead author of the study available in Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and , a publication of the .

"We now are close to having a blood test to help measure the smoking-related effects that contribute to atherosclerotic heart disease," Dr. Rohatgi said. "Smoking is one of the biggest contributors to the development of heart disease."

Smokers are at an increased risk of heart attack, stroke and dying from heart disease, but the risk varies among individuals. Until this study, there had been no simple blood test to measure the varied effects of smoking on heart disease.

Researchers determined the amount of circulating pulmonary surfactant B (SP-B), a protein found in damaged , in more than 3,200 Dallas Heart Study participants ages 30 to 65. The Dallas Heart Study was a groundbreaking investigation of cardiovascular disease that first involved more than 6,100 Dallas County residents who provided blood samples and underwent blood vessel scans with and computerized tomography.

The researchers found that smokers who had higher levels of SP-B also had more buildup of dangerous plaque in the aorta – the largest artery in the body, with branches leading to the abdomen, pelvis and legs.

The test is still being evaluated and is not available for commercial use. The next step, said Dr. Rohatgi, is to investigate whether SP-B causes atherosclerosis or is simply a marker of the disease, and to determine whether decreasing levels of SP-B will improve heart disease outcomes.

Explore further: Simple fitness test could predict long-term risk for heart attack, stroke in middle-aged people

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Artificial heart design features porous plastic foam

October 2, 2015

Artificial hearts with multiple moving parts increase the chance of failure; scientists have worked up a device which is a single piece. No less interesting is the material they used; the team is taking a page out of soft ...

What powers the pumping heart?

September 25, 2015

Researchers at the Ted Rogers Centre for Heart Research have uncovered a treasure trove of proteins, which hold answers about how our heart pumps—a phenomenon known as contractility.

Sticky gel helps stem cells heal rat hearts

September 24, 2015

A sticky, protein-rich gel created by Johns Hopkins researchers appears to help stem cells stay on or in rat hearts and restore their metabolism after transplantation, improving cardiac function after simulated heart attacks, ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.