Heart disease genetic link found
May 5, 2007 9:09am CST
Two teams of scientists have identified a genetic flaw which increases the risk of heart disease and heart attacks.US and Canadian researchers found that up to one in four white people carries the section of DNA which increases the risk of heart disease by around 40%. A separate study in Iceland found the same genetic variant was linked to a fifth of heart attacks. Experts said the findings, published in Science, were important but lifestyle factors had a big impact on risk. Both teams of researchers scanned the genomes of patients who had coronary heart disease or who had suffered a heart attack to see if there were any differences between them and healthy people. The US/Canadian team found a section of DNA - called an allele - on a specific chromosome that was associated with heart disease. Their study of 23,000 people, showed that those who carried one copy of this allele have a moderately increased risk of heart disease. But people who have two copies, which accounts for about 20-25 % of white people, have a 30 to 40% higher risk of heart disease than individuals who carry no copies. Professor Ruth McPherson, of the University of Ottawa Heart Institute, who worked on the study, said: "The effect is less than that of smoking or having a high cholesterol level. "Nonetheless, screening healthy people for this genetic marker could provide information on future risk of heart disease and help identify those individuals who would benefit most from early applications of strategies to reduc e heart disease risk." The researchers will now check if the findings also apply to people from black and Asian ethnic minorities.