Researchers at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center in the US have developed a blood test which can detect the early development of emphysema, well before symptoms occur.

The new test measures the levels of endothelial microparticles (EMP), which are particles shed by capillaries that surround air sacs (alveoli) in lungs.

These particles are shed due to ongoing injury to the air sacs, and the damage eventually leads to the devastation of the sacs.

In a study, researchers enrolled three groups of people – healthy nonsmokers, healthy smokers, and smokers with early evidence of lung destruction, and conducted DLCO, a lung function that can detect emphysema in patients.

The researchers found a 95% positive correlation between elevated EMPs in the blood and an abnormal DLCO test result, which means that the test detected nearly all cases of early emphysema patients.

According to researchers, as most cases of emphysema are caused by smoking, the new test can warn smokers about impending development of the disease.