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Genetic Test for Heart Disease Risk in the Works
Date:2/8/2009

International studies lay groundwork for designing way to spot susceptible patients

SUNDAY, Feb. 8 (HealthDay News) -- Perhaps five years from now, you might actually hear your doctor casually say, "While we're at it, let's do a blood test to see if your genetic makeup puts you at high risk of having a heart attack."

So says Dr. Sekar Kathiresan, an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and director of preventive cardiology at Massachusetts General Hospital. He is the leader of a group that has identified three new genetic variants associated with an increased risk of heart attack.

That finding, which brings the total of such risk-associated variants to nine, is reported in the Feb. 8 online issue of Nature Genetics. The journal highlights a total of five papers from groups around the world looking at the genetics of heart disease.

The study led by Kathiresan, done by a group of six organizations called the Myocardial Infarction Genetics Consortium, is the largest of the five. It compared the genomes of about 3,000 people who had suffered heart attacks relatively early in life -- under 50 in men, under 60 in women -- with those of 3,000 people who hadn't had a heart attack.

It's known that heart disease tends to cluster in families, Kathiresan said, in part because family members tend to share bad habits, such as smoking. The aim of the study was to single out the role of genes in increased familial risk.

"We looked at about 1 million different spots in the genomes, the frequency of the letters in the genomes in cases and controls," Kathiresan said. "The genome-wide study identified nine spots associated with an increased risk of heart attack, six of which had been previously described. We showed that when you combined the information from the nine different spots, the 20 percent of the people who had the most unfavorable profile had a 2.25-fold greater risk of having
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