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Twin studies reveal genetic components leading to cardiac and kidney disease

The researchers hope to more densely and systematically evaluate genotypes by studying blood samples from more twin pairs, in order to more extensively map genetic components that lead to increased risk of disease.

CRP and Heart Disease

For example, by studying twins, O’Connor’s team has identified three genes that are correlated with systemic inflammation. This study indicates a strong effect of heredity in the occurrence of C-reactive protein or CRP, a blood protein that serves as a marker for inflammation. Its presence indicates a heightened state of inflammation in the body and can indicate cardiovascular risk.

CRP is associated with increased blood pressure, body mass index, and insulin resistance, among other factors. In twin subjects with elevated CRP, multiple, common genetic variants were found along a pathway associated with the adrenergic system. Adrenergic stimulation is what is involved in the 'flight or fight' response, and results in an increased heart rate, sweating, and increased blood pressure. Evidence emerging from the twin studies uncovered links between the adrenergic system and inflammation, suggesting new strategies to probe the role and actions of this pathway in inflammation. This study was published in the February 2007 issue of the Journal of Hypertension.

Genes and Vascular Disease

In a study on line in advance of publication in the May 1 edition of Circulation the UCSD team reports findings regarding the effect of genetics on the endothelium, the single-cell lining of blood vessels. Endothelial function, or dysfunction, is the basis of every common vascular disease, such as heart attack or stroke.

"When blood vessels stop contracting and relaxing properly, it is the first indication of vascular dysfunction," said O’Connor

The endothelium secretes several hormones that are markers of how well it is functioning. Release of one of these markers,
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Source:University of California - San Diego


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