Acute aortic syndrome (AAS) happens when the wall of the aorta tears and blood begins to flow between the layers of the blood vessel wall.
Patients will AAS need immediate treatment, and in some cases emergency surgery, to prevent the artery rupturing, which could be fatal.
But diagnosing the disease before it is too late is difficult, as many symptoms, such as chest pain, can be attributed to other more common conditions.
In research funded by the British Heart Foundation, scientists at Edinburgh and Dundee universities have found that testing for a molecule called “desmosine” may speed up diagnosis.
Researchers compared blood concentrations of desmosine in 53 patients known to have
AAS and 106 people without the disease. They found that those suffering from AAS had
almost double the concentration of desmosine in their blood.
Desmosine levels were also associated with aortic growth which occurs when the aorta becomes damaged.
They believe desmosine is released into the blood when the tissues within the wall
of the aorta break down, signalling it has been damaged and is at risk of expanding or bursting. They now hope to use these findings to explore whether a simple blood test for desmosine could speed up the diagnosis of AAS in hospital.
Mr Maaz Syed, Clinical Research Fellow at the BHF Department for Cardiovascular
Sciences at Edinburgh University, said: “Right now, acute aortic syndrome is catastrophic. Diagnosis is difficult, and when it comes to treatment every second’s delay can prove fatal.
“We urgently need a new, faster way to diagnose this catastrophic disease so that we can
get patients the swift, life-saving treatment that they need.
"We need to confirm these results in bigger trials, but we hope that we have a potential biomarker that may help us detect a dangerous disease.”
Dr Anna-Maria Choy, Clinical Senior Lecturer at Dundee’s School of Medicine, said: “Time is absolutely vital when the aorta develops a tear and so anything that enables clinicians to make a rapid diagnosis and begin treatment right away will undoubtedly save lives."