Methods for diagnosis and treatment of Coronary Artery Spasm



Market Need

Cardiovascular disease remains the most common killer in the world.  Angina Pectoris, a leading symptom of cardiovascular disease, is estimated to affect over 10m people in the US, with over 500,000 new patients presenting each year.

The pharmaceutical market for Angina Pectoris is valued at approximately $9bn, and growing at a CAGR of over 5%, primarily driven by changes in lifestyle factors, and increased prevalence of obesity.  Coronary Artery Spasm (CAS), or smooth muscle constriction of the coronary artery, is an important condition associated with Angina Pectoris, often leading to more serious cardiovascular complications, and even sudden death.  CAS is a common, debilitating, but difficult to diagnose condition. Estimates indicate CAS could be present in anywhere between 4% to 30% of all patients presenting with Angina Pectoris.

Current diagnosis of CAS is through previous clinical history or demonstration of coronary heart spasm during an angiogram. Failure to diagnose this condition results in ongoing morbidity and occasionally mortality, not to mention significant quality of life impact, as anxiety and depression afflicts patients who are told that they have “nothing wrong with them”. Current treatment is focussed on the use of calcium antagonists to impair the pathways involved in constricting arteries and veins. However, no pharmacological agents are currently available to prevent the cyclic exacerbations of symptoms typical of CAS.

Accordingly, there exists a significant unmet market need for new methods of diagnosis and treatment of Coronary Artery Spasm.

The Technology

University of Adelaide researchers, led by Professor John Horowitz, Head of Cardiology for The Queen Elizabeth Hospital, have developed complementary technologies for diagnosis, treatment and management of CAS.

Our researchers have shown that CAS is associated with a release of the glycocalyx component, Syndecan-1 in blood plasma.  Syndecan-1 is typically released when the cell’s protective layer degrades, as an indicator of an acute inflammatory response. The correlation between increased Syndecan-1 and CAS supports the hypothesis that CAS is an inflammatory disorder.  A new ELISA assay for the detection of Syndecan-1 would allow reduced time for diagnosis of CAS in patients presenting to hospitals.

The treatment technology involves the combined use of drugs which relax the lining of heart arteries, interfere with the pathways involved in artery constriction, and protect heart cells from shedding their external protective layer.  Our researchers have shown, in both in vitro and in vivo models, that N-acetylcysteine rapidly reverses the effects of CAS, representing a point of care treatment for acute CAS.  This, in combination with more widely accepted interventions, offer an effective program for both acute treatment and long term management of CAS.

IP Position

A provisional patent has been filed, protecting both the diagnosis and treatment aspects of the technology. IP rights are owned by the University of Adelaide.

Next Steps

We are actively seeking partners to work with us to establish pre-clinical and clinical programs, to support the development of both the diagnostic and therapeutic in parallel.


Patent Information:
For Information, Contact:
Kirsten Bernhardt
The University of Adelaide
John Horowitz
Hasan Imam
Cardiovascular Disease