Researchers have used a new gene-hunting technique to pinpoint a novel genetic variant that raises some people’s odds of having a heart attack. The results, reported online today in Science, suggest a possible new contributor to heart disease and could lead to a genetic test to pinpoint people who are susceptible. Over the past decade, many genes have been reported to increase the risk of heart disease, but few of these findings have held up in subsequent studies. They found a genetic variant on chromosome 9 that was much more common in people who had suffered a heart attack. They and U.S. collaborators then confirmed the association in another Iceland sample and three U.S. groups totaling nearly 4600 cases and 12,800 controls.
A separate team found the same genetic clue. Researchers led by Ruth McPherson of the University of Ottawa Heart Institute in Canada and Jonathan Cohen of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas examined about 300 heart disease patients and 300 controls using 100,000 markers. The results, which point to the same gene on chromosome 9 fingered by deCODE, held up in five more groups of people in the U.S. and Denmark. Given that two separate teams found evidence for the same variant in a large number of sick people, “one can be absolutely confident that this risk allele is real,” says McPherson.
The results could eventually help doctors predict which individuals are prone to heart problems.