The proverbial cigarette after a Valentines Day snuggle can prematurely end a love affair, as new evidence emerges that a common defect in a gene significantly increases a smokers risk of an early heart attack. Researchers say that as much as 60 to 70 percent of the population has a gene defect that delivers a one-two punch to smokers: In a recent published study, heavy smokers with this common gene variant experienced a heart attack around the age of 52.
Weve all heard the stories: Someones great-uncle has smoked three packs of cigarettes since he was 14, and now, at the age of 88, hes living a fine, healthy life, said Arthur Moss, M.D., director of the Heart Research Follow-up Program at the University of Rochester Medical Center. Contrast that with the 52-year old neighbor, who also was a heavy smoker, and just last week, dropped dead from a heart attack. Why is it that some smokers seem unaffected by their habit and even outlive the healthiest individuals, while many other smokers suffer significant cardiac events at a relatively young age? We think we now know why.
According to Moss, the answer lies is a common deviation of the gene CETP (cholesteryl ester transfer protein), a protein found in all people that controls cholesterol metabolism. Smokers with a common form of this gene are likely to suffer a heart attack 12 years earlier than a non-smoker, while smokers who do not carry this variant appear to be protected and have the same risk of heart attack as non-smokers.
While genes have long been linked to diseases, its only been recently that researchers have been able to begin unraveling the intricate interplay between genes and the environment. By understanding how certain environmental factors such as diet, chemicals and even smoking can influence how well or not a particular gene works, scientists hope to provide new approaches to help decrease a persons risk of disease.
In this case, researchers zeroe
|Contact: Germaine Reinhardt|
University of Rochester Medical Center