New genes identified for coronary artery disease and heart attacks


An international group of scientists discovered five new genes that affect risk of developing coronary artery disease and heart attacks. The findings were published on 22 September 2011 in the open-access journal PLoS Genetics.

Nilesh Samani, co-principal investigator and British Heart Foundation Professor of Cardiology University of Leicester, UK, said, “The findings add to the growing list of genes, now over 30 that affect risk of coronary artery disease and heart attacks. The findings provide new insights into and understanding of the causal biological pathways that cause heart disease, and particularly highlight the role of lipids and inflammation.”


The researchers examined 49,094 genetic variants in ~ 2100 genes of cardiovascular relevance, in 15,596 coronary artery disease cases and 34,992 controls (11,202 cases and 30,733 controls of European descent / 4,394 cases and 4,259 controls of South Asian origin) and replicated their principal findings in an additional 17,121 coronary artery disease cases and 40,473 controls.


Hugh Watkins, co-principal investigator, British Heart Foundation, and professor of cardiovascular medicine, University of Oxford, said, “Although the effects of the new genetic variants that we have identified are individually small, in the order of 5-10% per copy, new treatments that are developed on the basis of the findings could have a much broader effect, as we have learnt, for example with statins.”


John Danesh, co-principal investigator, University of Cambridge, said, “This is one of the first genetic studies of coronary artery disease to include a significant proportion of subjects of South Asian origin. This ethnic group has a higher risk of coronary artery disease. Our study shows that many of the genes that affect risk of this disease do so similarly in European Caucasians as in South Asians.”


“One of the other strengths of our study is that in the literature there were a lot of genes which had been suggested to be associated with coronary artery disease based on small studies. Our very large study has allowed us to clarify this literature, and show that most of these reported associations are spurious,” said Adam Butterworth, University of Cambridge, and co-ordinator of the analysis.


The study was funded by the British Heart Foundation and the National Institute for Health Research in the UK with additional funding from the National Institutes of Health in the USA and from other funding sources in Europe.  The work was also supported by the Leicester NIHR Biomedical Research Unit in Cardiovascular Disease, based at Glenfield Hospital, Leicester, UK.