The new variation was found in a gene critical to the synthesis of cholesterol. The combination of the two variations occurred in nine African Americans (3 percent) and one Caucasian (0.2 percent) participating in the study.
"We need to understand more clearly the basis for the wide range of responses to statins, both in the lowering of cholesterol and in outcomes, such as heart attacks and strokes," said Ronald M. Krauss, M.D., lead author of the study and director of atherosclerosis research at Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute in Oakland, Calif.
"This study is one piece of the overall equation that we and others are trying to fill in to understand why some people do not respond as well as others to statin therapy," he said.
The new finding -- somewhat akin to fitting together the first pieces of a 1,000-part jigsaw puzzle -- has no immediate implications for treating patients, researchers said.
Many clinical studies have demonstrated that statin drugs effectively lower cholesterol and reduce death from cardiovascular disease. Evidence also indicates that genetic inheritance influences the drugs' effectiveness.
"We compared African Americans and Caucasians because they have very different genetic histories," Krauss said. "We were interested in knowing if there were any differences in response to the drugs between the two groups because there is very little information in the scientific literature to answer the question."
Genes commonly have several slightly different forms. These variations result from single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). A SNP is a place where one of the four building blocks of genes has been substituted for another. Typically, however, two or mor
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American Heart Association