CBC Kitchener-Waterloo: Waterloo researcher finds faster way to test for heart failure

Ontario researchers have developed a faster way to test if someone has heart failure.

Current testing in a lab takes up to 24 hours.

Heart failure is a condition that develops after the heart becomes damaged or weakened from heart attacks, high blood pressure or other heart conditions. It can cause abnormalities in heart function and can impact a person’s lifespan.

The new finger-prick test works within 20 minutes and is similar to a blood glucose meter used by diabetics. Patients prick their finger, rub the blood on a special strip and insert it into an electronic reader.

The Heart and Stroke Foundation estimates 600,000 Canadians live with heart failure. The condition is treated using medication, surgery or lifestyle changes.

Test device can alert doctors

The test was developed by Yael Zilberman-Simakov who is a researcher with Mitacs, a national not-for-profit research and training organization. She is also a University of Waterloo nanomaterials researcher. She worked with the Mississauga start-up LeNano Diagnostics.

The test looks for a higher concentration of brain natriuretic peptide (BNP) in the blood, which is a biomarker used to diagnose heart failure. The device can then automatically communicate results to a care provider and if levels are elevated, a physician would be alerted.

The new method has undergone preliminary testing and will now move to clinical trials.

“We were looking at the glucose strip and we thought we could do something similar,” Zilberman-Simakov said in an interview about the new test.

“If the level is too high, there will be a warning to say you should go see the doctor or call the ambulance.”

Patients can monitor levels at home

Charles Lu, CEO of LeNano Diagnostics, said the test is easy to use and has “accurate and quantitative results, enabling patients to monitor their own levels from home.”

“Through our new testing system, we can alleviate some of the burden on the healthcare system while at the same time providing a more comforting environment for patients to manage their own health condition,” Lu said.

Zilberman-Simakov said this will be a crucial tool for people who are at a higher risk of problems.

“It’s faster, it’s low cost, it’s real time and the patient can monitor themselves every day if they want to know what is the level of the BNP because it does fluctuate a lot during the day,” she said.