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Biomarkers for heart disease risk identified

KING’S COLLEGE LONDON (UK)—A world-wide consortium of researchers has identified 59 novel regions of the human genome that are involved in lipid metabolism. Lipid concentrations in the blood are one of the key risk factors for coronary artery disease (CAD).

Details of the study were reported in the journal Nature.

This study represents the most comprehensive analysis to identify the biological underpinnings of lipoprotein metabolism.

The goal was to identify new biomarkers that can serve as indicators for an increased risk of developing CAD. The findings could provide the foundations for developing targeted drugs that suppress these key genes involved in metabolizing the lipids, thereby preventing heart disease.

“This study represents a significant piece in the complex genetic jigsaw to understand the risks of developing coronary artery disease,” says Massimo Mangino of the Department of Twin Research and Genetic Epidemiology at King’s College London.

Men and women after menopause are at equal risk for developing CAD, which is currently the leading cause of death in the world, significantly impacting health, quality of life, and longevity.

CAD develops when the arteries that supply blood to the heart muscle narrow through a build-up of lipids such as cholesterol, allowing less blood to flow through the arteries.

As a result, the heart muscle lacks the blood and oxygen it needs, which can lead to chest pain or a heart attack. An estimated 1.5 million men and 1.2 million women in the UK live with the disease.

The researchers analyzed the genome-wide association results for serum lipids in more than 100,000 individuals of European ancestry. In total, they identified 95 regions of the human genome, which include regions previously identified in other studies and 59 novel regions, that play a role in lipid metabolism.

The study also demonstrated that some of these genetic locations were shared by European and non-European populations, thereby making the findings relevant on a global scale.

“As this is the largest such study ever undertaken, with a sample that ensured international significance of the results, we are hopeful that it will provide a basis for further research into CAD biomarkers, and to enable new drugs to fight this dangerous condition,” says Mangino.

Researchers from dozens of institutions from around the world took part in the study, including several from the US and the UK: University of Michigan, University of Washington, University of Pennsylvania, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Washington University in St. Louis, Johns Hopkins University, Stanford University, University of Oxford, University of Leeds, University of California at Los Angeles, Northwestern University, Imperial College London, University of Edinburgh, University of Glasgow, and University of Cambridge.

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