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Study Underway to Identify Genes Contributing to Heart Attack Risk

Scientists at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center and colleagues at four other medical centers have launched a $10 million multi-year// study to identify genes that may contribute to early atherosclerosis.

“If we can identify people in their teens and early adult life who have a genetic predisposition to develop atherosclerosis, we can manage their risk factors for heart disease and stroke sooner and more aggressively,” said David Herrington, M.D., M.H.S., professor of cardiology at Wake Forest and lead investigator.

Other participating centers are Cedars Sinai Medical Center, Louisiana State University (LSU) Health Sciences Center in New Orleans, the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston and the University of Washington.

Funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) of the National Institutes of Health, the study, known as SEA (SNPs and Extent of Atherosclerosis), will build on research from two previously funded NHLBI projects. The study will also benefit from a unique collaboration with Perlegen Sciences Inc., a company that specializes in techniques to uncover the genetic causes of diseases.

Atherosclerosis is the development of fatty deposits in arteries that leads to blood clot formation, angina, heart attack and stroke. This process can begin in childhood and early adult life. Doctors have known that genetic factors contribute to risk for early atherosclerosis but the exact genes involved are not yet known.

“We hope the SEA study will give us new understanding about the causes of atherosclerosis, including the discovery of new genes and new pathways that could guide the development of new drug treatments that may be more effective in preventing the development of heart disease,” said Herrington.

The researchers will take advantage of data from two large-scale studies: LSU Health Sciences Center’s Pathobiological Determinants of Atherosclerosis in
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