DNA linked to heart attacks among young people

February 10th, 2009 - 9:47 am ICT by IANS  

New York, Feb 10 (IANS) Yes, genetics do play a role in triggering heart attacks, says a new study piloted by an Indian American researcher.

The study has found nine spots in human DNA which play a role in elevating risk of a heart attack among young people.

Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) have made this revelation after studying the DNA of 26,000 people - half of whom suffered a heart attack at a young age.

The study also showed that those with more genetic variants were at higher risk of a heart attack than others.

Indian-origin researcher and study leader Sekar Kathiresan, who is director of preventive cardiology at MGH and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, said in a television interview Monday that their findings will lead to new diagnostic methods soon.

“I think a shorter term benefit for these findings is the potential for new diagnostics. So it is the idea of combining these gene variants into a genetic test that could identify people that are at higher risk,” he said.

“And we think that over the next couple of years the starting point is the nine that we’ve discovered but there will be many more and, in combination, all of these can be put together hopefully into a diagnostic test,” the Indian-American cardiologist said.

Statistics show that the average age for women suffering heart attacks is 47 and for men 41.

Though higher heart attacks have been blamed on bad habits, overweight, smoking and hypertension, the risk has also linked to family genetic factors.

To study the role of genetics, the team led by Kathiresan studied two million spots in the DNA of heart attack sufferers for any variations, and compared them with those of who never suffered a heart attack.

From their analysis, Kathiresan said, his team found that three variations or changes in genetics in heart attack sufferers were linked to high levels of cholesterol, Kathiresan said.

“But six of them point to previously unsuspected regions of the genome playing a role in heart attack, and I think this is the exciting part about human genetics,” he said.

“It gives us new clues into the cause of heart attack,” Kathiresan said during the interview.

The study has been published in the journal Nature Genetics.

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