Gene Variants Reveal Susceptibility To Cardiovascular Disease

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Heart Disease

Variations in a gene that acts as a switch to turn on other genes may predispose individuals to heart disease, an international team of researchers led by Duke University Medical Center scientists has discovered.

Further study of this master switch - a gene called GATA2 - and the genes it controls may uncover a regulatory network that influences whether a person inherits coronary artery disease, the most common form of heart disease in the Western world, according to the researchers. The discovery also may lead to development of genetic tests to predict an individual's risk of developing coronary artery disease, the scientists said.

"We hope that one day it will be possible to use these gene variations to predict who is susceptible to cardiovascular disease," said Jessica J. Connelly, a postdoctoral fellow at the Duke Center for Human Genetics and lead author on the study. "This finding is the first step before we can develop such a test for use in patients."

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People who know they are at higher risk may be encouraged to take early steps to modify behaviors, such as smoking or consuming foods high in saturated fats, that are known to play a role in promoting heart disease, the scientists said.

The team reports its findings in the August 2006 issue of Public Library of Science (PLoS) Genetics. The research was sponsored by the National Institutes of Health.

Coronary artery disease affects more than 13 million Americans and is one of the nation's leading causes of death. The disease occurs when the arteries supplying blood to the heart become narrowed or clogged by plaque deposits. Left untreated, the disease can completely block the blood flow to the heart, leading to a heart attack.

Coronary artery disease is what scientists call a "complex" genetic disease -

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