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It may be possible to identify and better treat heart transplant patients who are likely to develop coronary artery disease, the leading cause of failed heart transplants, researchers said Tuesday.

Patients prone to such disease can be identified through the presence of two molecules in the inner lining of the coronary arteries, the report from Methodist Research Institute in Indianapolis said.

Among a group of transplant patients studied, one in four of those with the marker molecules present three months after a transplant developed the disease and suffered rejection of the transplanted organ. By comparison, only 7 percent of those without the molecules suffered rejections.

The report, published in this week's Journal of the American Medical Association, said early detection of the marker molecules through biopsies could alert doctors to future problems and offer them the chance to start therapies that would prevent rejections.

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