Heart Disease :: Genes can influence where plaque happens in heart arteries

Heredity sometimes influences where fatty deposits develop in a coronary artery, researchers reported in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.

Different locations of disease show different degrees of inheritance, said Ulrich Broeckel, M.D., one of the study’s authors. The most hazardous ones have a high heritability.

The new findings, if confirmed, could affect heart disease screening strategies for close relatives of coronary heart patients.

Coronary heart disease involves a complex combination of genetic and environmental factors. Physicians have long known that a family history of the disease is a major risk factor for a heart attack. But, researchers have devoted scant attention to whether genes might partially govern where the fatty deposits develop within the heart’s arteries.

As far as we can determine, we are the first to do a large study of the genetic contribution to the location and pattern of coronary lesions, said Broeckel, assistant professor of medicine at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee.

He and his colleagues conducted their study as part of a 10-year collaboration that includes the Medical College of Wisconsin, the University of Regensburg in Germany and the University of Luebeck, also in Germany.

The researchers studied angiograms of 882 siblings with coronary artery disease from 401 families. One person from each family had had a heart attack before age 60 and at least one sibling had had a heart attack or coronary revascularization (angioplasty, stenting or coronary artery bypass surgery).

The team compared the angiograms of the 401 people who’d had a heart attack before age 60 (one from each family) to that of a sibling who’d had a heart attack or revascularization procedure. They found that a large number of sibling groups had shared disease patterns, indicating a genetic influence.

Leave a Comment