Biomarker predicts mortality rate for heart failure patients

A study conducted at UCLA has discovered a new way to predict which patients with "stable heart failure" have a higher risk of dying within one to three years. The study found that patients who have higher levels of the neuropeptide Y, a molecule released by the nervous system, are ten times more likely to die within one to three years than those with lower levels of neuropeptides.

On average, about half of people who develop heart failure die within five years of their diagnosis, according to the American Heart Association. It hasn't been understood why some live longer than others, despite receiving the same medications and medical therapy. Researchers wanted to determine if a biomarker of the nervous system could help explain the difference.

To date, no other biomarker has been identified that can specifically predict the risk of death for those who suffer from stable heart failure. The researchers analyzed blood from 105 patients with stable heart failure to find a distinct biomarker to predict how likely that person is to die in the next few years.

The team found that neuropeptide Y levels were the clearest and most significant predictor of death. The scientists also compared nerve tissue samples from patients to samples of healthy donors to determine the neurons in the people who were most at risk for dying from heart failure were releasing higher levels of neuropeptides.

The team believes that the results of the study could give a way to distinguish very-high-risk patients with stable heart failure from others with the same condition. That could help top target patients that require more aggressive and targeted therapies. The study also highlights the need for heart failure therapies to target the nervous system.