UK scientists lift lid on genetics of coronary artery disease

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 research, jointly carried out by researchers at the University of Leicester and the University of Leeds, in collaboration with colleagues in Germany at the Universities of Lubeck and Regensburg, is published online today in the journal New England Journal of Medicine.

The first important clues to the identities of these variants came from a genome-wide analysis conducted in almost 2,000 people with coronary artery disease and 3,000 healthy controls as part of the Wellcome Trust Case Control Consortium (WTCCC), the largest ever study of the genetics of common disease. The findings were then compared with the German MI Family Study, with almost 900 addition cases and 1600 additional controls.

The results coincide with the announcement that the WTCCC has been awarded a further 7.7 million to investigate in detail the genes that have been identified already. The Wellcome Trust has also put out a call to widen its scope to study other common diseases.

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

Contact: Craig Brierley
Wellcome Trust

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