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Gene Mutation Tied to Inherited Atrial Fibrillation
Date:7/9/2008

Defective hormone may point to new targets for treatment, study says

WEDNESDAY, July 9 (HealthDay News) -- A gene mutation linked to one family's hereditary form of atrial fibrillation may help researchers find better ways to predict, prevent and treat the heart rhythm problem, according to a new report.

The mutation -- a flaw in the DNA sequence -- was discovered by Mayo Clinic researchers studying a large family with an inherited form of atrial fibrillation in 11 relatives. Collaborators at the University of Iowa later confirmed the mutation's role in altering the electrical properties of the heart through an animal model.

The findings are published in the July 10 online version of the New England Journal of Medicine.

More than 2 million Americans have atrial fibrillation, the most common type of irregular heartbeat. It happens when the heart's two upper chambers beat irregularly and out of synch with the two lower chambers. This causes irregular, often rapid heart rates and can lead to inadequate blood flow to the body, putting the person at an increased risk of stroke. The condition can be treated with medications or surgery.

While risk factors for developing atrial fibrillation, such as high blood pressure or structural heart disease, are known, they are not always present.

"We know that some patients develop atrial fibrillation at a younger age without an apparent underlying cause, suggesting a hereditary basis for their disease and prompting research to identify gene mutations," senior study author Dr. Timothy Olson, a pediatric cardiologist at the Mayo Clinic, said in a news release issued by the facility.

Investigators gathered and analyzed clinical and genetic data from the 11 affected and five unaffected family members. All 11 with atrial fibrillation shared a mutation in the gene that codes for atrial natriuretic peptide (ANP), a hormone that helps regulate body
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