Genetic variation may hasten onset of cardiovascular disease

January 3rd, 2009 - 11:52 am ICT by IANS  

Washington, Dec 3 (IANS) Researchers have identified a variation in a particular gene that may hasten onset of coronary artery disease. For years, scientists have known that the devastating, early-onset form of the disease was inherited, but they knew little about the gene(s) responsible until now.

In a previous study, a region on chromosome 7 was linked to coronary artery disease (CAD). More recently, the researchers focussed on identifying the gene in this region that confers risk of early-onset CAD and identified it as the neuropeptide Y (NPY) gene.

NPY is one of the most plentiful and important proteins in the body and is a neurotransmitter related to the control of appetite and feeding behaviour, among other functions.

The current research, led by Elizabeth Hauser, found evidence for six related variations in the NPY gene that show evidence of transmission from generation to generation and association across a population of early-onset CAD patients.

The researchers evaluated 1,000 families for CAD or evidence of a true heart attack, as part of the GENECARD study put together by the Duke University Cardiology Consortium, said a Duke release.

An independent, nonfamilial study used a collection of samples of nearly everyone who had an angiogram at Duke since 2001. Co-authors William Kraus and Christopher Granger founded this repository, called CATHGEN, which is now nearing 10,000 subjects. The nonfamilial work showed a strong relationship between the NPY genetic variants associated with coronary disease.

The genetic results were even stronger in patients with onset of CAD before the age of 37. “We showed a strong age effect,” said Hauser. “If one has the NPY gene variants in one of two copies (from mother and father), then you may develop coronary disease earlier.”

The results were published in the open-access journal PLoS Genetics Friday.

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