Heart disease is the second leading cause of death in Canada and researchers at the Lawson Health Research Institute are looking at how earlier detection could save tens of thousands of lives.

It’s a complicated name - growth hormone secretagogue receptor or GHSR for short.

It’s is a new biomarker inside the heart discovered by scientists at Lawson that could be the gateway to earlier detection when it comes to heart disease.

“Heart disease affects everyone almost, one in two are affected or know someone affected by heart disease,” says Rebecca Sullivan, Lawson trainee and PhD candidate.

Currently heart conditions are diagnosed in several ways. One way is with blood tests checking for elevated markers in the blood.

“The other method that they use is imaging. So they use eco cardiology or MRI which are most commonly used when looking at the function of the heart. The problem with that is that they are late stages and we were trying to find a marker that presented at earlier stages.”

Sullivan says that’s where GHSR comes in as a potential early-detection marker.

“We are looking at human tissues and biopsies of patients who underwent heart transplant surgeries and we got biopsies of the old heart that had end stage heart failure and then biopsies every time they have come in for post-operative care.”

And so far the results have been promising, she says.

“I’ve shown that there has been an elevation of this receptor in end-stage heart failure but not in healthy tissue.”

Sullivan says these early findings will now be further examined with the ultimate goal of one day being able to save lives, all by using science.

“It can make a big difference because if we can detect any marker at earlier stages that can predict if someone is going into heart failure, it can change the course of medication and the treatment that they will be using in clinic.”