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New research highlights genetic links with heart disease

Researchers at Queen Mary, University of London have collaborated on a study which shows new genetic causes of coronary artery disease (CAD).

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Looking through the heart
Looking through the heart

There are an estimated 2.6 million people living with the disease in the UK. It is the nation’s biggest killer with 94 thousand deaths each year.

Scientists already know that smoking, a bad diet and lack of exercise can cause heart disease, but the new study is further evidence that genes also play a role.

The research, published in Nature Genetics, has identified 13 new genetic variants, which influence the risk of developing CHD.

Scientists examined the genes of over 22,000 CAD patients of European descent and compared them with over 64,000 healthy people.

Each of the 13 variants had an effect on risk - some increased the chance by as much as 17 per cent.

All the genetic variants were relatively common in the European population occurring in up to 91 per cent of people.

A few of the variants seem to be associated with genes that are already linked to known CAD risk factors, such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure. But the rest represent completely new avenues for research.

Shu Ye, Professor of Molecular Medicine and Genetics at Queen Mary, University of London, took part in the study. He said: “Coronary artery disease is a major cause of sickness and death around the world and it’s essential that we understand its causes.

“This study is important because it reinforces the idea that genetic factors play a role and it opens up many new paths for researching and ultimately treating the disease.”

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