Goal is to identify extracellular matrix peptides that can be used as predictors.

A blood test to diagnose which heart attack survivors will suffer heart failure is the goal of a new five-year, $11.6 million contract to the UT Health Science Center San Antonio (UTSA) from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI).

“Over the last 40 years, we have drastically improved short-term survival after heart attacks, but with this study we hope to identify the three out of 10 patients who need more intensive treatment,” remarks Merry L. Lindsey, Ph.D., associate professor of medicine and principal investigator of the NHLBI Proteomics Center. “We will do this by studying protein fragments that are released into the bloodstream following heart attacks.”

Researchers will scrutinize peptides to determine which are active in plasma samples taken from mice within one week of an induced heart attack, Dr. Lindsey explains. In particular, the team will catalog which extracellular matrix proteins are broken down into peptide fragments following a heart attack. They will evaluate each individual fragment for biological activity.

“Extracellular matrix turnover regulates how the heart responds to injury,” explains Yufang Jin, Ph.D., assistant professor in the electrical engineering department at UTSA and a co-investigator of the proteomic center.

To identify these peptides the proteomics center is developing new detection methods using mass spectrometry equipment. Susan Weintraub, Ph.D., professor of biochemistry and center co-investigator, directs the Health Science Center mass spectrometry resource. She will lead efforts to identify the fragments.

Gregg Fields, Ph.D., professor of biochemistry, center co-investigator, and Robert A. Welch Foundation distinguished professor, will study the peptides’ composition and generate synthetic peptides that will be used to test for biological activity.

Dr. Fields, Dr. Lindsey, and Seema Ahuja, M.D., associate professor of medicine and center co-investigator, will test these synthetic peptides. “The extracellular matrix peptides that are identified as relevant in the basic laboratory will then be measured in human blood samples to see if individual peptides can be used to predict outcomes in patients that have had a heart attack,” notes Richard A. Lange, M.D., vice chair in the department of medicine and co-investigator/clinical lead on the project. Cardiologists Robert Chilton, M.D., and John Erikson, M.D., will team up with Dr. Lange on the clinical study.

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