Given the obesity levels in the world these days, heart attacks are becoming more and more frequent. A lot of people die due to heart attacks which is why researchers have started digging deeper into the heart condition. A new study has found something very intriguing. An antibody previously associated with rheumatic diseases has been found in abundance among heart patients. The new discovery could change the way heart patients are treated.

Heart attack and Antibodies

A heart attack occurs when the blood supply to the heart is limited or blocked. The supply typically gets blocked due to a blood clot or a clot forming through the accumulation of fat. Antibodies (immunoglobulins) are a type of protein produced by blood plasma cells. Their job is to fight harmful foreign bodies in conjunction with our immune system.

Previously associated with rheumatic diseases, researchers at Karolinska Institutet in Solna, Sweden have found antibodies that are abundant amongst people who’ve suffered from a heart attack. This changes everything as these antibodies may have a negative role instead of a positive one when it comes to a heart attack.

Image: Nature

Image: Nature

The antibodies in question are the antiphospholipid antibodies (aPLs). These antibodies are abnormal in nature as they react to tissues produced by the body itself. When a person produces too many aPLs, they develop a condition known as antiphospholipid syndrome (APS). The consequence of having too many aPLs in your body is that they increase the risk for blood clots. That’s why the new research is so significant, a person with a high number of aPLs present has a higher risk of having a heart attack later as well.

What the researchers found

The study found that aPLs were present in high numbers in patients who’ve suffered from a heart attack before. What’s more interesting is that these patients were only heart patients and had no history or connection to rheumatic diseases or APS.

To investigate, they recruited 800 people for the study. These people were from 17 different Swedish hospitals and all of them had experienced a heart attack for the first time. For comparison purposes, the study was divided into an affected vs a control group. The control group had an equal number of participants who were perfectly healthy.

The researchers then analyzed blood samples of the first group 6 weeks after the first heart attack and then 10 weeks after. The blood samples were taken purely to check for the presence of three different types of aPLs. It was found that people from the affected group had not only more aPL numbers, but 11% more of the affected had aPLs that reacted to tissues created within the body when compared to the control group. The result was an appalling 10 times more than the control group.

“I’ve long been convinced that the antibodies are more common than we think and have now been able to analyze their presence in a large patient material,” says study author Prof. Elisabet Svenungsson.

What the Doctors have to say

Prof. Svenungsson was surprised at the high number of patients which showed high levels of aPL. The type of antibodies that were present amongst the patients are known to increase the risk of blood clots. Therefore, the participants could develop some form of APS as well due to their heart conditions. It’s not just the participants, this result can be generalized to heart patients as well which explains why some people continue to have risks of heart attacks.

Prof. Svenungsson concluded:

“according to current recommendations, be prescribed lifelong treatment with the anticoagulant warfarin, which reduces the risk of new blood clots,”
This would change the prevailing guidelines for the investigation and treatment of heart attacks.”




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