In a large and comprehensive investigation into the underlying causes of sudden cardiac death (SCD) a surreptitious killer of hundreds of thousands annually in the United States researchers have discovered a variation in the genome's DNA sequence that is linked to a significant increase in a person's risk of SCD.
The new finding flags a DNA sequence called the BAZ2B locus, a region along the genome containing three genes previously unknown to play any role in cardiac biology, according to a report published online June 30 in PLoS Genetics. Understanding how genetic variation in this region plays a role in the risk of SCD could eventually help those at risk take steps to prevent it, the researchers say, although they emphasize that a great deal of follow-up work is required.
"Our analysis suggests that if you have one copy of this variant, your increased risk is double that of someone who doesn't," says Dan Arking, Ph.D., lead author of the study and an associate professor in the McKusick-Nathans Institute of Genetic Medicine, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. "If you have two copies having inherited one from each parent you have almost a fourfold increased risk of SCD."
Statistically significant though it is, this variant alone doesn't give scientists the information they need to proceed with a clinically useful test or therapy, Arking says. Scientists first need to figure out which of the three genes in the region is the key player, and determine how that gene's function is compromised likely by using model organisms to investigate their heart-related biological activity.
To identify the variant, a consortium of researchers first combined five separate genome wide association studies to survey each of the 3 billion base pairs in the DNA sequences of 1,283 individuals of European ancestry who experienced SCD, and more than 20,000 individuals without SCD. They followed up suggestive findings in an addi
|Contact: Maryalice Yakutchik|
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions