An exploratory analysis investigating blood protein biomarkers to augment ECG diagnosis of ACS

V. E. McGilligan, Steven Watterson, Khaled Rjoob, Melody El Chemaly, RR Bond, Aleeha Iftikhar, Charles Knoery, Stephen Leslie, Anne McShane, AJ Bjourson

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4 Citations (Scopus)
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Acute Coronary Syndrome (ACS) is currently diagnosed using a 12‑lead Electrocardiogram (ECG). Our recent work however has shown that interpretation of the 12‑lead ECG is complex and that clinicians can be sub-optimal in their interpretation. Additionally, ECG does not always identify acute total occlusions in certain patients.

The aim of the present study was to undertake an exploratory analysis to compare protein expression profiles of ACS patients that may in the future augment ECG diagnosis.

Patients were recruited consecutively at the cardiac catheterization laboratory at Altnagelvin Hospital over a period of 6 months. A low risk control group was recruited by advertisement. Blood samples were analysed using the multiplex proximity extension assays by OLINK proteomics. Support vector machine (SVM) learning was used as a classifier to distinguish between patient groups on training data. The ST segment elevation level was extracted from each ECG for a subset of patients and combined with the protein markers. Quadratic SVM (QSVM) learning was then used as a classifier to distinguish STEMI from NSTEMI on training and test data.

Of the 344 participants recruited, 77 were initially diagnosed with NSTEMI, 7 with STEMI, and 81 were low risk controls. The other participants were those diagnosed with angina (stable and unstable) or non-cardiac patients. Of the 368 proteins analysed, 20 proteins together could significantly differentiate between patients with ACS and patients with stable angina (ROC-AUC = 0.96). Six proteins discriminated significantly between the stable angina and the low risk control groups (ROC-AUC = 1.0). Additionally, 16 proteins together perfectly discriminated between the STEMI and NSTEMI patients (ROC-AUC = 1). ECG comparisons with the protein biomarker data for a subset of patients (STEMI n = 6 and NSTEMI n = 6), demonstrated that 21 features (20 proteins + ST elevation) resulted in the highest classification accuracy 91.7% (ROC-AUC = 0.94). The 20 proteins without the ST elevation feature gave an accuracy of 80.6% (ROC-AUC 0.91), while the ST elevation feature without the protein biomarkers resulted in an accuracy of 69.3% (ROC-AUC = 0.81).

This preliminary study identifies panels of proteins that should be further explored in prospective studies as potential biomarkers that may augment ECG diagnosis and stratification of ACS. This work also highlights the importance for future studies to be designed to allow a comparison of blood biomarkers not only with ECG's but also with cardio angiograms.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)S92-S97
JournalJournal of Electrocardiology
Early online date4 Sept 2019
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 31 Dec 2019


  • Acute myocardial infarction
  • Blood biomarkers
  • Clinical decision making
  • Electrocardiogram


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