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Tiny clue reveals new path toward heart disease

Geneticists have discovered a new gene that may put individuals at higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

The identification of the gene, called kalirin, implicates a biological mechanism never before linked to cardiovascular disease, according to the Duke researchers who led the study. Further study of this new clue could lead to novel ways to treat or even prevent the disease, the researchers said.

"The ultimate goal is to determine who will develop cardiovascular disease," said lead study investigator Liyong Wang, Ph.D., a research associate at the Duke Center for Human Genetics. "Our discovery could lead to a clinical tool for assessing a person's risk of coronary artery disease, so that physicians can try to prevent the disease from progressing."

The team, which includes researchers from several universities in the United States and the United Kingdom, reports its findings in the April 2007 issue of American Journal of Human Genetics. The research was sponsored by the National Institutes of Health.

Coronary artery disease affects more than 13 million Americans and is one of the nation's leading causes of death. The disease occurs when the arteries supplying blood to the heart become narrowed or clogged by plaque deposits. Left untreated, the disease can completely block the blood flow to the heart, leading to a heart attack.

While risk factors such as smoking, high blood pressure and high cholesterol are known to contribute to coronary artery disease, little is known about genes that render an individual susceptible to developing the disease, said study co-investigator Elizabeth R. Hauser, Ph.D., an associate professor of medicine at the Duke Center for Human Genetics.

In a previous study, the researchers had scanned the entire genome -- the body's genetic blueprint -- of a group of families in which at least two siblings had early onset coronary artery disease, looking for regions of "linkag
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Source:Duke University Medical Center


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