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New blood test to evaluate the severity of pulmonary arterial hypertension
The new blood test measures DNA fragments shed by damaged cells. Researchers found that these fragments, called cell-free DNA, were elevated in the blood of patients with PAH and increase with disease severity.
Patients with PAH have a high death rate, and the condition mostly affects women. Despite treatment advances, it currently has no cure.
Current tests used to monitor PAH severity rely on established risk prediction scores based on clinical symptoms and on the use of an invasive catheter to measure pressure in the lungs. Doctors sometimes use echocardiography, or heart imaging, to measure pressures in the heart as an indirect measurement of lung pressure, but these tests tend to lack reliability and sensitivity.
In the current study, the research team analyzed cell-free DNA from blood samples taken from 209 adult patients, predominately women. The researchers compared the results to cell-free DNA measured from a control group of 48 healthy volunteers without PAH at the NIH Clinical Center.
They found that cell-free DNA was elevated in patients with PAH, and also found that cell-free DNA concentrations increased in proportion to the severity of the disease. Patients with the highest level of cell-free DNA had a 3.8 times greater risk of either death or a need for lung transplantation compared to those with the lowest level of cell-free DNA, the researchers said.
Further analyses of cell-free DNA samples revealed that multiple tissue types – including the heart, blood vessels, fat tissue, and inflammatory cells circulating in the blood – were affected by PAH. This knowledge may lead to new drug interventions for PAH, whose current treatment options may slow but not halt or reverse disease progression.
Plasma Cell-free DNA Predicts Survival and Maps Specific Sources of Injury in Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension. Circulation. DOI: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.121.056719
B.Sc Life Sciences, M.Sc Biotechnology, B.Ed
Isra Zaman is a Life Science graduate from Daulat Ram College, Delhi University, and a postgraduate in Biotechnology from Amity University. She has a flair for writing, and her roles at Medicaldialogues include that of a Sr. content writer and a medical correspondent. Her news pieces cover recent discoveries and updates from the health and medicine sector. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.