They also discovered that approximately 20 previously identified genetic factors associated with elevated CRP in whites are also shared among African Americans and Hispanic Americans genes that involve pathways related to innate immunity as well as metabolism of fat and sugar.
Identifying the genetic variants that regulate CRP levels may help researchers settle a point of scientific controversy: whether chronic, low-grade inflammation causes cardiovascular disease or whether it is just a reaction to the disease process of atherosclerosis, also known as hardening of the arteries.
"This finding may allow us to study whether CRP is a direct cause of heart disease or merely an early warning sign," Reiner said. "Moreover, understanding the genes that regulate the inflammatory response in humans could lead to the development of new anti-inflammatory drugs for treatment of an assortment of chronic diseases ranging from diabetes to cancer."
In addition to genetics, environmental factors that are known to contribute to elevated CRP and low-grade, chronic inflammation include obesity, cigarette smoking and estrogen therapy.
While low-grade inflammation may contribute to increased risk of cardiovascular disease and other health disparities among African Americans and Hispanic Americans, prior studies suggest the correlation between CRP and obesity does not appear to completely explain higher CRP levels among people of African descent.
For the study, Reiner and colleagues scanned the genomes of 8,280 African American and 3,548 Hispanic American, postmenopausal participants in the Women's Health Initiative to look for variations in DNA called single
|Contact: Kristen Woodward|
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center