Genetic markers could point out heart attack risk

In September, researchers reported 5 new genes that linked with coronary artery disease, bringing the total to more than 30. Researchers from the Cardiogram Consortium, based across Europe, the U.S. and Australia, have found genetic biomarkers that add to this increasing pool of data, potentially leading to genetic signatures that could help to identify people at risk of heart attacks.

Clotting factors in blood are important to stop bleeding after injury, but changes in the levels of these factors have been linked with increased risk of heart disease. The researchers compiled results from a number of genome-wide association studies (screens of the entire genome to find genetic variations connected with disease) for genes linked with activated partial thromboplastin time (aPTT) and prothrombin time (PT), both tests for clotting used to screen for coagulation-factor deficiencies. These studies included more than 75,000 people, and researchers found a total of 8 genetic markers linked with changes in aPTT in coronary artery disease and two with PT. The results were published in The American Journal of Human Genetics.

"There is a lot of work still to be done, but our findings should set a foundation for new types of testing that will help physicians find and treat clotting diseases in the general population," said Weihong Tang of the University of Minnesota School of Public Health.

One issue with this study, as pointed out by the researchers, is that it focused on people of European descent, and there are differences in clotting disorders between different ethnic groups. The team hopes to expand the work into other groups, as well as carrying out larger studies to validate the data.

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