Studies double the known genetic links to coronary heart disease


Mar 11 Human HeartResearchers in two major international studies have discovered 17 new genetic variants linked with increased heart disease risk. The research more than doubles the known firm genetic links to coronary heart disease, which kills around 88 000 people in the UK every year.

The studies, published online in 'Nature Genetics', were funded by several leading research institutions, including the Wellcome Trust, the British Heart Foundation and the Medical Research Council, and used data generated by the Wellcome Trust Case Control Consortium.

The studies - one from the CARDIoGRAM consortium and one from the Coronary Artery Disease (C4D) Genetics Consortium - compared the DNA of thousands of people with coronary heart disease against the DNA of people unaffected by the disease in search of genetic variations that are more likely to be found in people with the disease.

The CARDIoGRAM research involved in-depth analyses of the DNA of more than 140 000 people, more than 50 000 of whom had coronary heart disease. The C4D scientists looked at the DNA of more than 70 000 people, more than half of whom had the disease.

Some genes were associated with pathways known to be involved in the development of coronary heart disease, but the researchers also identified many other relevant genetic variants.

Professor Hugh Watkins from the WTCHG, who co-led the C4D research, says: "Our research strengthens the argument that lots of genes have a small effect on your heart disease risk, rather than a few genes having a large effect. Knowing about them will be important for directing research to find new treatments.

"We also show that our five new genetic culprits are found equally in European and South Asian populations, indicating that large international studies may be the best way forward in the hunt for the genetic causes of heart disease."

"The most exciting thing about our study - the largest ever of its type - is that we have discovered several new genes not previously known to be involved in the development of coronary heart disease," says Professor Nilesh Samani from the University of Leicester, who co-led the CARDIoGRAM research.

"Understanding how these genes work, which is the next step, will vastly improve our knowledge of how the disease develops, and could ultimately help to develop new treatments."


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