Last month an American Airlines pilot died during a flight from Phoenix to Boston, forcing an emergency landing by the co-pilot in Syracuse. The unfortunate incident had no impact on the passengers, who didn't know a thing until they were told why they were landing in Syracuse.MARK MURPHY
According to 57-year old Michael Johnson's wife, "The coroner... said that it was 99.9 percent positive it was a heart attack," she told KUTV.
But could it have been prevented?
Could a simple blood test have predicted the risk of a heart attack for Johnson?
A California-based pharmaceutical company and its CEO say yes.
"This test is a monumental step forward in combating the world's deadliest killer – heart disease," Dr. Douglas Harrington, CEO of GD Biosciences, said in a statement.
GD Biosciences is the developer of the Cardiac PULs Test, which detects evidence of heart disease in asymptomatic individuals and predicts their risk of a future coronary event.
PULs, an acronym for Protein Unstable Lesion Signature, is a simple blood test that analyzes the proteins secreted from active lesions in the coronary arteries. Measured with other factors including age, race and gender, as well as in conjunction with current testing practices, the heart disease assessment test is able to identify underlying silent cardiac disease activity and predict the likelihood of a future cardiac event within a five year window.
"The ability to identify underlying silent cardiac disease and predict the likelihood of a cardiac event before it happens is crucial in the health of a patient, especially those who are not showing any symptoms," Harrington said.
Here's how it works:
Harrington said current measures, such as checking cholesterol levels, are insufficient to identify an individual's cardiac health.
"Cholesterol studies are critical to identifying a patient's risk of developing heart disease but they do not indicate whether disease is actually present," Harrington told the Private Physicians Summit in Washington last month. "The PULs Cardiac Test provides a missing piece of the heart disease puzzle by enabling physicians to identify silent underlying heart disease without significant clinical symptoms, and in the face of normal cholesterol blood levels."
Multiple studies have shown that roughly 50 percent of heart attack victims had normal cholesterol levels. Most people don't realize they have problem until they experience either a heart attack or sudden death.
"The momentum that the PULs Test is building has been incredible as we look to introduce it to more and more markets around the world," added Harrington, who in July presented the medical breakthrough at the 20th World Congress on Heart Disease in Vancouver, British Columbia. "We know the test saves lives, it has done so numerous times already, now it's just making people aware of their options and expanding accessibility."
Harrington said the test is covered by most major insurance companies.