Study Looks at Remote Monitoring of Blood Marker of PH Progression

Marta Figueiredo, PhD avatar

by Marta Figueiredo, PhD |

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Researchers in the U.K. will evaluate whether the levels of NT-proBNP — a heart damage biomarker that serves as a prognostic marker of pulmonary hypertension (PH) — can be accurately measured in a finger-prick blood sample that can be taken by patients at home and sent by mail to laboratories.

The project, funded by Janssen Pharmaceuticals, will be led by John Wort, MD, PhD, and Laura Price, MD, PH consultants at the Royal Brompton Hospital in London, and will involve specialist pulmonary hypertension centers across the U.K.

“This study will tell us if we can rely on remote monitoring of this important marker of heart failure in patients with pulmonary hypertension,” Wort said in a Royal Brompton and Harefield hospitals’ press release.

“If we can, it will really increase the amount of important information we can get from remote consultations, especially as these will be part of patient care moving forwards,” Wort added.

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Pulmonary hypertension is a chronic and progressive disease characterized by high blood pressure in the blood vessels that supply the lungs, making the right ventricle of the heart work harder to pump blood. Continuous strain on the right ventricle can ultimately lead to heart failure.

High blood levels of NT-proBNP (brain natriuretic peptide), a molecule that is released from the walls of the heart when they are under stress, have been shown to predict disease progression in people with PH.

These levels are currently measured in standard blood samples taken from a patient’s arm. But a reliance on telehealth due to the COVID-19 pandemic has limited the collection of such samples, affecting the appropriate monitoring of PH progression.

A solution could be to analyze NT-proBNP levels in finger-prick blood samples collected by patients at home and sent to a laboratory via post. This minimally invasive, quick procedure involves using a lancet or a needle to draw a small amount of blood from a finger that is usually placed into a vial or on filter paper.

The study, expected to start in March, will assess whether measuring NT-proBNP in finger-prick samples is as reliable and accurate as measuring this marker in standard blood samples.

“Although a relatively simple study, the results should have big implications,” Wort said.

Researchers will also evaluate whether postal delays could affect results by measuring NT-proBNP levels at three and seven days after the sample is collected.

If this remote method proves to be comparable to the standard approach, the study “will show that we can effectively monitor patients remotely, so they may only need to come in for more tests only if there is a rise in the NT-proBNP value,” Price said.

Eleanor Morris, the study’s lead research nurse, said the project “addresses both a data deficit within the understanding of the markers of cardiac function and the limitations of tele-consultations in providing clinical results which can be implemented for future care.”

Should it prove “successful, implementing the results could provide far-reaching improvements to patient experience, care, and outcomes,” Morris added.