Identifying Blood Biomarkers of Atherosclerosis
Atherosclerosis is one of the leading causes of death worldwide. Biomarkers play a crucial role in comprehending atherosclerosis, providing measurable indicators of disease presence, progression, and treatment response.
The Build-up of Plaque in Arteries
Atherosclerosis is a condition where arteries narrow and harden due to plaque build-up, resulting in reduced oxygen supply to vital organs. This condition is strongly associated with cardiovascular diseases, such as heart attacks and strokes, and is one of the leading causes of death worldwide.¹ Research suggests that around half of Americans aged between 45 and 84 had atherosclerosis but were unaware of their condition.²
The Importance of Non-Invasive Biomarkers
Biomarkers play a crucial role in comprehending atherosclerosis, providing measurable indicators of disease presence, progression, and treatment response. Blood biomarkers, in particular, hold immense value due to their accessibility, non-invasiveness, and cost-effectiveness. By measuring these biomarkers, clinicians can identify underlying biological processes contributing to atherosclerosis and detect subclinical cardiac problems. This offers the potential for personalized risk-based decisions, early preventive interventions, and precise medicine tailored to individuals, ensuring more effective management and targeted care for those at risk of cardiovascular disease.
Uncovering Blood Biomarkers of Atherosclerosis
Advancements in technology and research in recent years have led to the identification of numerous blood biomarkers associated with atherosclerosis. Causaly uncovered over 8,500 biomarkers associated with atherosclerosis, with almost 5000 specifically relating to blood. Refining by primary data revealed approximately 3500 biomarkers of atherosclerosis in blood. Notably, C-reactive protein (CRP), fibrinogen, and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) are among the blood biomarkers of atherosclerosis with the most evidence.
C-Reactive Protein: An Inflammation Marker
CRP, a biomarker produced by the liver in response to inflammation, plays a fundamental role in atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease. Elevated CRP levels, which have been extensively researched, correlate with the risk of atherosclerosis, and associated cardiovascular complications.³
According to Causaly, the most studied technology or assay to detect CRP in atherosclerosis is high-sensitivity CRP (hs-CRP). This sensitive test enables early detection and effective management of atherosclerosis and related diseases. It integrates routine CRP testing into cardiovascular risk assessments, ensuring better heart health.
Fibrinogen: Blood Clotting Protein
Fibrinogen, a protein involved in blood clotting and thrombosis, is associated with increased inflammation and a higher risk of atherosclerosis. It can be easily measured using standard laboratory techniques, making it accessible in clinical settings for assessing cardiovascular risks.⁴
According to Causaly, the Clauss fibrinogen assay is one of the most studied methods for measuring fibrinogen levels. This assay quantitatively assesses the ability of fibrinogen to form a fibrin clot when exposed to high concentrations of purified thrombin. Fibrinogen tests are readily available and can be performed using routine blood samples, making it a practical clinical biomarker.
Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL): Cholesterol
Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol is a major contributor to plaque formation. LDL cholesterol is prone to oxidation and can infiltrate the arterial walls, triggering an inflammatory response, thereby promoting the development of atherosclerotic lesions. Elevated levels of LDL cholesterol in the bloodstream are associated with increased risk of atherosclerosis.
Oxidized LDL is known to accumulate in plasma, further contributing to the progression of atherosclerosis.⁵ As macrophages uptake oxidized LDL, they also play a crucial role in promoting the development of plaques.⁶ Understanding and addressing the role of oxidized LDL and LDL cholesterol are essential in managing and preventing atherosclerosis and related cardiovascular diseases.
According to causaly, the most studied technology or assay to measure oxidized LDL in atherosclerosis is typically through lipid measurement using blood tests like lipid profiles or lipid panels. While standard lipid profiles offer important information about overall lipid levels, specific tests for oxidized LDL can provide valuable insights into the oxidative processes involved in atherosclerosis, allowing for a more comprehensive assessment of cardiovascular risk factors associated with this condition.
CRP, fibrinogen, and LDL cholesterol are notable blood biomarkers for assessing the risk of atherosclerosis. Established laboratory techniques allow for their measurement, aiding in early detection and more informed management strategies. Specifically, CRP serves as an indicator of systemic inflammation, fibrinogen is involved in blood clotting, and LDL cholesterol plays a role in arterial plaque formation. Incorporating these biomarkers into routine clinical practice may improve risk assessment strategies, paving the way for timely intervention and monitoring of atherosclerosis.
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