Leicester leads on heart attack genetic link discovery

The largest-ever study of its type into coronary heart disease, involving scientists from the University of Leicester, has uncovered 13 new genes that increase risk of heart attacks. Professor Nilesh Samani, British Heart Foundation Professor of Cardiology at the University of Leicester, based at Glenfield Hospital, who co-led the international research programme, called CARDIoGRAM, said most of genes identified were not previously known to be involved in the development of coronary heart disease, opening of the possibility of developing new treatments for this common disease.

The study involved over 167 clinicians and scientists from UK, Europe, Iceland, USA and Canada and over 140,000 participants. The researchers assessed the genetic codes of people to search for variations in DNA that are more likely to be found in people with coronary heart disease.

Professor Samani said: "The most exciting thing about our study is that we have discovered several new genes not previously known to be involved in the development of coronary heart disease, which is the main cause of heart attacks. Understanding how these genes work, which is the next step, will vastly improve our knowledge of how the disease develops, and could ultimately help to develop new treatments."

Professor Samani added that the scale of the study showed the benefits of international collaboration in tackling major research questions of this type.

He said: "The study would not have been possible without the many patients right across Britain who participated in our British Heart Foundation Family Heart Study and others like them all round the world. This is a real tribute to their contribution."

Professor Peter Weissberg, Medical Director at the BHF, said: "As more and more large scale genetic studies are carried out we are beginning to identify genes that may play a significant, though small, role in the development of heart disease.

"Each new gene identified brings us a small step closer to understanding the biological mechanisms of cardiovascular disease development and potential new treatments. However, as the number of genes grows, it takes us further away from the likelihood that a simple genetic test will identify those most of risk of suffering a heart attack or a stroke."

The study is published in the leading journal, Nature Genetics.

The UK component of the study was funded by several leading research institutions including the BHF, the Wellcome Trust, the UK Medical Research Council and the National Institute for Health Research. CARDIoGRAM also received funding from the European Union.

Source: Leicester University