The heart of the matter

Jan. 23, 2020

According to L. Frank Baum, “hearts will never be practical until they can be made unbreakable,” and with each cardiovascular advance in laboratory diagnostics, it seems we move closer to making this ideal a reality (of sorts). As the result of new tests and clinical trials, today’s cardiovascular disease (CVD) is no longer discovered only at autopsy after a patient dies, but rather, through routine yet specific blood tests designed to find CVD biomarkers early, while the patient is very much alive.

In this month’s Medical Laboratory Observer (MLO), we take a closer look at CV biomarkers with “Implementation of high-sensitivity cardiac troponin into clinical practice” on page 8 and learn why cTn has been “the preferred biomarker for diagnosis and rule out of acute myocardial infarction (AMI)” for almost a decade. In related troponin news, researchers in the U.K. recently analyzed data of 250,000 non-MI patients who had minor spikes in troponin levels. The results of the analysis showed a ten-fold increased risk of death among people 18-29, with the same risk decreasing as ages increased. These results, and more like them, could lead to an increase in CV interventions at earlier stages, with a wider range of age groups affected globally.

Looking to the heart of the lab, MLO’s first Lab Director’s Summit was held in December with success as one of the many takeaways the Summit offered attendees. Beginning on page 16, MLO Publisher Kristine Russell offers an insightful summary of current challenges faced by Lab Directors, who are at the heart of any efficient lab, and provides suggestions and solutions based on feedback and comments from speakers and attendees.

At another event-based session called “The future of molecular pathology,” which was held at the most recent Association for Molecular Pathology (AMP) conference, panelists gave their industry predictions while acknowledging existing challenges. Clinical experts offered their forecasts and urged everyone from trainees to tenured lab professionals to take heart and embrace the changes on the horizon – read their suggestions and advice on page 36.

Even though heart disease continues to be the number one cause of death in the U.S, per numerous statistic-gathering online outlets, there are other current threats looking to surpass CVD for the same morbid distinction, including sepsis and antibiotic resistance. New research has also shown a relationship between cancer and autoimmune-related conditions and diseases. One statistic from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) asserts that between 10 percent and 30 percent of cancer patients have an autoimmune disease as well, further reiterating the need to study these patients more for immunotherapy treatments that address both diseases. Articles in this issue take a closer look at these diseases and how the industry is working to find solutions for them.

In the meantime, let’s look outside February’s heart-shaped box and see more than the potential for diabetes, obesity, dental issues and food allergies. We should keep our attention focused on the clinical laboratories of the near future, whose research and diagnostic advances will have us swooning and falling in love with our industry’s perseverance all over again.

I welcome your comments, questions and opinions - please send them to me at [email protected].