Biochemical Detection of Cardiac Disease
August 1, 2004 (published)
Susan Little DVM, DABVP (Feline)

Winn Feline Foundation Progress Report
By Susan Little DVM, Diplomate ABVP (Feline)

August 2004

Early biochemical detection of heart disease in cats
Investigator: Philip Solter
College of Veterinary Medicine
University of Illinois, Urbana, Illinois

Funded 2000

Dr. Solter and his colleagues have been attempting to identify markers that could assist veterinarians in evaluation of feline heart disease using a blood test. Studies of cardiovascular disease in humans led the researchers to choose three hormones (neurohormones) to investigate in cats: brain natriuretic peptide (BNP), atrial natriuretic peptide (ANP), and feline endothelin. Very little is known about neurohormones in cats, but it is known that they can be markers of cardiovascular disease in other species. For example, it is known that levels of ANP and BNP are increased in humans with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), dilated cardiomyopathy, and congestive heart failure.

The researchers had several goals for their project:

  1. Determine the amino acid sequence of each neurohormone
  2. Develop a blood test for each neurohormone
  3. Evaluate the neurohormones as diagnostic tests for heart disease in cats

The sequencing of all three neurohormones was successfully completed and the results were presented at various conferences during 2000-2003. Using the sequences, the researchers evaluated commercially available human and canine neurohormone test kits to determine which ones worked best for cat blood samples.

Once the best test kits were selected, they tested over 100 cats with heart disease. They discovered that all three neurohormones are affected by heart disease in cats and may have some role in diagnosis. However, the neurohormone BNP appears to have the most potential in cats. BNP is a hormone made by heart muscle cells and released into the bloodstream. It plays a role in regulation of cardiovascular function. Plasma BNP levels were able to distinguish healthy cats from cats that had heart disease but were not showing any clinical signs of disease. With further research, it is possible that plasma BNP may be a useful screening test for heart disease, especially HCM, in cats.

For further reading:

Biondo, A., E. Ehrhart, et al. (2003). Immunohistochemistry of atrial and brain natriuretic peptides in control cats and cats with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Vet Pathol 40(5): 501-506.