Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) are the leading cause of death worldwide – an estimated 17.9 million people died from CVDs in 2019, accounting for 32% of all global deaths (WHO.int).
The most common type of heart disease is coronary artery disease (CAD), which is responsible for the majority of CVD deaths. In this disease, a build-up of cholesterol deposits, called atherosclerotic plaques, causes the arteries to narrow or become blocked over time. This often results in reduced blood supply to the heart and could lead to ruptured or eroded plaques, leading to clot formation, which causes heart attacks and strokes.
There is no cure for CAD, but lifestyle changes, medication, and surgery are all viable treatment options.
PlaqueTec, a Cambridge-based SME, is working with researchers and clinicians to develop biomarkers (measurable indicators of the body’s biological condition) to allow the accurate assessment of a patient’s state of CAD and determine how likely they are to experience a future cardiac event. This information will be used to group patients who will benefit from specific treatments and develop new treatments with higher chances of success.
PlaqueTec’s novel sampling technology, the Liquid Biopsy SystemTM, collects blood samples containing biomolecules (a type of biomarker) from upstream and downstream of the plaque’s location in the artery, which can be compared to identify biomolecules leaking from plaques. These biomolecules provide information on vascular function, inflammation, and coronary plaque progression. This allows PlaqueTec to map the biological processes of CAD in more detail than has previously been possible.
A better understanding of disease status could support the development of treatments, allowing clinicians to provide more personalised treatments to decrease the number of deaths from the disease.