Friday, July 20, 2007

Scientists Lift Lid On Genetics Of Coronary Artery Disease

Science Daily — Scientists have moved a step closer to understanding how our genetic make-up can lead us to develop heart disease and to predicting who is most at risk. In a study published today, they have confirmed six new genetic variants that increase the likelihood of developing coronary artery disease. Heart disease is the UK's largest killer, accounting for 105,000 deaths annually.

The researchers found that changes in our DNA on chromosomes 2, 6, 10 and 15 and two on chromosome 1 were associated with increased risk of developing coronary artery disease and heart attacks The study also confirmed the importance of a variant on chromosome 9, previous identified in an independent study.

"We are not talking about rare genetic variants here, but rather variants that are very common in our population," says Professor Nilesh Samani, British Heart Foundation Chair of Cardiology at the University of Leicester, and lead author on the paper. "Many of these genetic variants are carried by between a quarter and three-quarters of white Europeans. They are clearly very important and explain a significant proportion of the heart attacks that occur."

Today, the Wellcome Trust has announced a further £7.7 million for the study to continue and analyse in more depth the initial findings. The Trust, the UK's largest medical research charity, has also called for proposals from scientists to study other common diseases.

"This is an exciting step forward," says Dr Mark Walport, Director of the Wellcome Trust. "We now need to understand how these common genetic variants cause increased risk of heart disease. From this understanding, we may be able to develop new preventative strategies and new treatments."

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