In an effort to explore if defects in genes cause these mysterious deaths, Oregon Health & Science University heart researchers studied five genes already known to increase a person's risk for sudden cardiac death. They found gene defects were responsible, but only in a minority of patients. Further research will be required to determine whether gene defects may also have caused the remaining sudden cardiac deaths. The study, "Postmortem Molecular Screening in Unexplained Sudden Death," was published in the May 5 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
"Sudden cardiac death is a big problem. Each time we chip away at one possible solution we get closer to the finding the answer to this complex question," said Sumeet Chugh, M.D., associate professor of medicine (cardiology) in the OHSU School of Medicine, OHSU Heart Research Center scientist and director of OHSU's Heart Rhythm Research Laboratory. "This is a story that is only just unfolding. This study confirms that our pursuit of genes involved in sudden cardiac death is still in its infancy."
Sudden death is generally defined as a death that occurs within one hour of the patient having symptoms, such as chest pain or difficult breathing. In the majority of people, this condition occurs due to an abnormality of the heart rhythm, known as arrhythmia.
For the first time, Chugh's team looked at 12 patients who died suddenly but had structurally normal hearts. They looked for mutations in five genes that are already linked to two diseases in the heart's electrical systems known to cause sudden death,
Contact: Christine Pashley
Oregon Health & Science University