The latest research conducted by scientists at The Methodist Hospital and Baylor College of Medicine suggests that biomarkers that increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases are also strongly associated with the development of asymptomatic mild brain damage and silent strokes. The results of this research are published online in the latest online edition of peer-reviewed journal Stroke.
Research conducted by scientists at the Baylor College of Medicine, Methodist Center for Cardiovascular Disease Prevention, University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston and other institutions identified that high serum concentration of troponin T and NT-proBNP is directly suggestive of brain tissue damage. This observation was made in the large-scale Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study that was funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
The principal investigator and Director of the Center for Cardiovascular Disease Prevention at The Methodist Hospital, Christie Ballantyne, M.D. commented:
“The concept of prevention is expanding. It’s not good enough to simply do a few tests and try to assess risk for heart attack. What we need to do is assess the risk for heart attack, stroke, heart failure and also asymptomatic disease so we can start preventive efforts earlier. Waiting to correct problems until after a symptomatic stroke may be too late.”
Details of the Subclinical Brain Disease Research Study:
The researchers collected and analyzed data obtained from 1100 volunteers as part of the subclinical brain disease study. In this study, volunteers agreed for blood investigations and 2 MRI scans taken 11 years apart for identification of silent brain infarcts and white matter lesions (WMLs) that are seen in the setting of chronic inflammation.
The statistical analysis suggested strong association between high serum levels of NTproBNP and the risk of developing WMLs and brain infarcts. The study subjects with highest serum concentration of NT-proBNP presented almost 3.5 times the number of brain infarcts when compared to study subjects with low NT-proBNP levels, and more WMLs. Similarly study participants who presented with high serum concentration of troponin T had as much as 3.0 times the number of brain infarcts and more WMLs.
Ballantyne and his associates published another paper 2 months ago to report strong association between blood levels of troponin T and NT-proBNP with symptomatic cases of stroke. However, the current study was mainly focused at reviewing the role of two biomarkers in the management of subclinical or asymptomatic ischemic episodes in the brain.
Ballantyne, also a professor at Baylor College of Medicine suggested that the two papers clearly indicate that the biomarkers can help in identification of patients at risk of developing stroke or mild brain damage. This may help in guiding doctors to take corrective steps for the protection of brain from damaging stimuli.
“The highly sensitive troponin T test we used is not approved for general clinical use in the U.S. yet, but the NT-proBNP test is just now starting to be used more widely beyond making a diagnosis for heart failure.”
It is noteworthy that the protein troponin T is a component of troponin complex and the serum concentration of troponin is used clinically for diagnostic purposes of recent ischemic episode in heart muscle. On the contrary, NT-proBNP is an inactive peptide fragment that is produced as the metabolic breakdown product of natiuretic peptide (BNP), a peptide hormone that is also used for the diagnosis of recent myocardial ischemic episode.
The team of researchers suggests that in order to devise practical strategies, it is helpful to screen patients at risk of developing stroke and initiate preventive treatments to decrease the prevalence of strokes.