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Gene Variant Protects Black Heart Failure Patients
Date:4/21/2008

Has same effect as beta blocker drugs in 40% of blacks, study finds

MONDAY, April 21 (HealthDay News) -- Researchers have discovered a gene variant carried by about 40 percent of blacks that protects them after heart failure as much as widely used beta blocker drugs do.

The finding explains the puzzling results reported in trials of beta blocker therapy in black people, said Dr. Stephen B. Liggett, a professor of medicine and physiology at the University of Maryland, and co-author of a report in the April 20 online issue of Nature Medicine.

"To our knowledge, this is the first case where a genetic variant mimics the activity of a drug used to treat a disease," Liggett said.

But Liggett predicted "further surprises" along the same lines as research on human genetic variations continues.

The finding won't have an immediate effect on treatment of heart failure, the progressive loss of ability to pump blood that affects an estimated 5 million Americans, said study co-author Dr. Gerald W. Dorn II, director of the Center for Pharmacogenomics at Washington University in St. Louis. Doctors can continue to prescribe beta blockers for people with heart failure, black or white, since the drugs have little risk, he said.

But there should be an effect on future medical practice, Dorn said. "One idea in the future of drug discovery is that we will not only need to tailor therapy for individual genetic makeup but also take genetic makeup into consideration in drug testing," he explained.

About 2 percent to 3 percent of white Americans in the total group of 2,000 who were tested carried the gene variant, he said.

The research finding was made possible by the Human Genome Project, which laid out all the more than 20,000 genes that act in humans. The researchers zeroed in on the gene pathway responsible for the activity of adrenaline, a hormone that increases cardiac output. In heart fa
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