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Changing the Paradigm of Heart-Health Monitoring

A blood test to measure efficiency of "Good" high-density  lipoprotein (HDL) and risk level of cardiovascular disease

Recent clinical studies have revealed that high density cholesterol (HDL-C), a traditional biomarker of cardiovascular health, may not be as accurate a predictor of cardiovascular events as once believed. This was seen in a series of failed drug trials that were designed to increase circulating HDL-C. While these drugs were effective in increasing HDL-C, they did not affect the frequency of cardiovascular events.

Our understanding of HDL as a biomarker of disease is becoming clearer, and growing evidence indicates that how well a person’s HDL works in mobilizing cholesterol (HDL function) is more indicative of health than circulating HDL-C levels. Because HDL-C is a fundamental test applied broadly to assess cardiovascular health, this discovery has wide reaching health implications. Despite this, no existing test of HDL function has taken the place of HDL-C in the clinic. This is primarily because existing laboratory methods to measure HDL function are complex, time consuming, and do not apply to those suffering from metabolic syndrome or diabetes.

With funding from the TRDRP, scientists at UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute have addressed this need and devised a test of HDL function that requires less than a drop of blood and 2 minutes. Moreover, the test is broadly applicable regardless of the patient’s metabolic / health status or gender.

“HDL-C is proving to be poorly representative of cardiovascular event risk. More importantly, HDL-C provides women a false sense of security, causing them to ignore the telltale symptoms of a heart attack, leading to a nearly 8-times greater first event fatality rate for women than men. HDL function, as measured by our new method, provides a much more accurate insight into metabolic and cardiovascular health for all patients.” said Dr. Oda.

When the test was applied to clinical studies of subjects suffering from cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome or diabetes, there was a clear distinction between healthy and unhealthy individuals. Because this aspect of HDL function can be addressed by changes in lifestyle, such as cessation of smoking, nutrition and medication, this test may provide patients and clinicians a means to diagnose disease and gain feedback on the success of intervention.

A patent describing the test has recently been filed by UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute, which has been licensed by Seer BioLogics, a company founded by the investigator, Dr. Michael Oda.


heart health monitoring