Mayo Clinic Launches First-in-U.S. Blood Test that Assesses Risk of Heart Attack Using Plasma Ceramides

ceramides-pressheroMayo Clinic has launched a new type of blood test that will be used to predict adverse cardiovascular events in patients with progressing coronary artery disease (CAD). The test measures blood concentrations of plasma ceramides, a class of lipids that are highly linked to cardiovascular disease processes. Researchers say this test is especially useful for patients with CAD when it does not improve with treatment or for young patients with premature CAD.

The new test will help clinicians identify at-risk individuals and is available to Mayo Clinic patients and health care providers worldwide through Mayo Medical Laboratories (MML). MML is the reference laboratory of Mayo Clinic, offering advanced laboratory testing and pathology services to more than 5,000 health care organizations in more than 60 countries. MML collaborated on the test with Zora Biosciences Oy, a diagnostics discovery company based in Finland that specializes in cardiovascular disease.

Jeff Meeusen, Ph.D. Clinical Chemist Mayo Clinic
Jeff Meeusen, Ph.D.
Clinical Chemist
Mayo Clinic

“Through our strong collaboration with Zora Biosciences, we hope our new test will improve the evaluation of individuals at risk for cardiovascular disease,” says Jeff Meeusen, Ph.D., a clinical chemist and co‑director of Cardiovascular Laboratory Medicine at Mayo Clinic. “This test is for patients with highly specialized cases, for example, patients with progressing coronary artery disease—despite treatment and control of their risk factors, or for younger individuals with premature CAD.”

The test also might be used to determine if treatment is necessary in individuals at intermediate risk via the risk calculator from the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association.

Allan Jaffe, M.D. Mayo Clinic Cardiologist
Allan Jaffe, M.D.
Mayo Clinic Cardiologist

“Plasma ceramides are promising biomarkers for the prediction of adverse CV events in either primary and/or secondary prevention. The studies to date suggest that the signals observed presage events within the next five-year period,” says Allan Jaffe, M.D., cardiologist at Mayo Clinic and chair of the Division of Clinical Core Laboratory Services, with joint appointments in the Department of Cardiovascular Diseases and the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology. “Risk conferred by plasma ceramides appears to be independent of other established and novel biomarkers, and there are preliminary indications that high ceramide concentrations can be modified by common lipid-lowering therapies.”

About the Plasma Ceramides Test (Test ID: CERAM)
The test for plasma ceramides is to be used in conjunction with clinical evaluation and patient risk assessment as an aid in predicting risk of imminent adverse cardiovascular events. Risks conferred by ceramides are independent of traditional biomarkers including age, sex, smoking status, and history of CAD. In a study published in 2016 in European Heart Journal, plasma ceramides were found to predict the likelihood of an adverse cardiovascular event within one year in CAD patients. In patients with suspected CAD and/or chronic heart failure, the test can predict the likelihood of an event within three to five years, based on studies published in Canadian Journal of Cardiology and the International Journal of Epidemiology.


Kelley Schreiber

Kelley Schreiber is a Marketing Channel Manager at Mayo Medical Laboratories. She is the principle editor and writer of Insights and leads social media and direct marketing strategy. Kelley has worked at Mayo Clinic since 2013. Outside of work, you can find Kelley running, traveling, playing with her new kitten, and exploring new foods.


wow, that is amazing!

When will this be available to doctors in all states?I have no heart disease,but thee is a lot of it in my family and I like to keep on top of these things.

Thanks for your comment. This test is currently available and can be ordered by health care providers in all states. Contact your primary care provider to discuss further.

What about people who have high cholesterol can this test be done to see if medication is necessary? High Cholesterol is in all five girls in our family. Mom had it as well & lived to be 97. No one at this time has had a heart issue of any kind.

Is this the same as the Cardiovascular Risk Marker Panel?

Hi, Katie, thank you for your question. The Cardiovascular Risk Marker Panel is limited to guideline-endorsed tests applicable for routine screening. Current data in support of ceramides is very promising; however, as it is only recently available for clinical use, it may be some time before it is considered for guideline recommendations. Appropriate clinical scenarios include patients with intermediate risk of heart disease, patients with progressing disease despite being at “target” LDL-C, or patients with conflicting risk markers (e.g., low cholesterol but strong family history of disease).

Excellent question, Patricia. According to Dr. Meeusen and Dr. Jaffe, ceramide testing would certainly be appropriate in a situation where risk is uncertain. Ceramides are independent of cholesterol as a risk factor for heart disease. In other words, patients with desirable cholesterol levels but elevated ceramides have poorer outcomes. However, there are no studies at present to answer your question directly and we cannot say that if ceramides are relatively normal that one can ignore other risk markers such as cholesterol. This is an issue for you to decide with your physician.

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