Humanity in Science: Accelerating Detection in Early Stages of Heart Attacks

The Humanity in Science Award was created in 2015 by Phenomenex and The Analytical Scientist to recognize outstanding developments in science that could change human lives for the better.
The inaugural winners, Peter H. Seeberger and Andreas Seidel Morgenstern of the Max Planck Institutes in Germany, claimed top prize last year with their discovery of a cost-efficient process to produce artemisinin-based anti-malarial therapies—a highly effective, but commonly counterfeited, treatment for a disease that claims over half a million lives every year.
There were many runners-up who did (and do!) amazing things for humanity. Recently, The Analytical Scientist sat down with each of them to catch up, and find out how their ventures have progressed in the last 12 months.

Don Farthing

Detecting early signs of a heart attack with unprecedented speed

When it comes to heart attacks, there is simply no time to waste.

Don Farthing and his team at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) Medical Center realized this, and are looking to resolve a “critical” deficiency in the detection of acute cardiac ischemia—otherwise known as reduced blood flow to the heart—at the “very early onset” of a heart attack.Farthing

Using High Pressure Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) and mass spectrometry, the group established that plasma inosine and hypoxanthine were “promising candidate biomarkers” for indicating reduced blood flow. As chromatographers know, HPLC equipment isn’t necessarily famous for its rapidity, and that’s the crucial quality missing from current methods of acute cardiac ischemia detection.

“Therefore,” Farthing explained, “we developed a rapid and sensitive chemiluminescence test for use on a microplate luminometer, which can qualitatively determine plasma levels of inosine and hypoxanthine in less than a minute.” According to Lumigen, chemiluminescence is defined as the “generation of electromagnetic radiation as light by the release of energy from a chemical reaction.”

“If inosine and hypoxanthine are clinically validated for diagnoses, their use and the rapid chemiluminescence test can potentially save thousands of lives, as well as millions of dollars in hospital cost each year.”

“In our humble opinion,” he continued, “there is no stronger humanitarian aspect than saving human lives.” And that’s exactly what the VCU research team aims to do.

The American Heart Association (AHA) says the most common symptom of a heart attack among men and women is the most obvious: chest pain or discomfort. However, women are more likely than men to experience other common symptoms—specifically nausea, back pain, and shortness of breath.

“Calling 9-1-1 is almost always the fastest way to get lifesaving treatment,” the association stresses. “Emergency medical services (EMS) staff can begin treatment when they arrive—up to an hour sooner than if someone gets to the hospital by car.”

Curious about what occurs in the body during a heart attack? Watch this animation on

Related resources:

Cardiovascular Drugs
Racemic Vasodilator Drugs by Chiral HPLC
Antimalarial Drugs by Chiral HPLC

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