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Researchers identify more heart attack genes

Pinpointing the genes that may be responsible for increasing the risk of heart attack has proved to be much harder than initially hoped. In a major step toward this goal, a massive new international genetics study has identified 13 new gene regions linked to coronary atherosclerosis, doubling the number of genes already known to be associated with heart disease.

I interviewed the two Stanford researchers involved in the study and was told that this work brings us one step closer to understanding the cause of coronary atherosclerosis, the most common cause of death worldwide. Study author Themistocles Assimes, MD, PhD, also explained in a release when these findings might be used in the clinical setting:

With such information we should be able to better identify people at high risk early on in life and quickly take the steps to neutralize that excess risk by strongly recommending lifestyle and pharmacological therapies that we already know substantially reduce risk. Although we are inching closer to that day, we will probably need to reliably identify many more variants predisposing to heart attacks over the next few years before it becomes useful to perform this genetic profiling in a doctor’s office.

The study appears online in Nature Genetics.

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