Study: Gene mutation may actually prevent heart disease
By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
6/19/2014 (2 years ago)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
Mutations to a particular gene can dramatically lower the risk for heart attack, scientists have found. Researchers are now trying to develop drugs that target the gene in order to bring down the high rate of heart disease in the U.S. population.
Many people still have elevated triglycerides despite exercising, eating a low fat, low carbohydrate diet and taking statin drugs. An agent that targets APOC3 may further reduce blood fats, lowering the risk of heart attack.
LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Recent studies have identified a gene called APOC3 in connection with the body's removal of triglycerides, a type of blood fat. Triglycerides, if they are not eliminated from the body, stick to blood vessels. They wind up stored in the hips and belly.
Elevated, triglycerides, or lipids, are thought to be a risk factor for heart disease. It's believed that approximately one in 150 people has mutations to the APOC3 gene that keep their triglyceride levels low.
A thorough investigation of 110,000 patient blood samples found those with the rare mutations had lower levels of triglyceride fats. These patients had a significantly reduced risk for the most common form of heart disease.
"We compared the heart attack rates of people who carried the mutations and those who didn't, and found that people who carried the mutations and had the lower triglycerides had 40 percent lower risk for heart attack," Sekar Kathiresan, director of Preventive Cardiology at Massachusetts General Hospital said. Kathiresan is an associate researcher at the Broad Institute of Biomedical Research and helped lead the study that identified four beneficial genetic mutations to the APOC3 protein.
Elevated LDL, which is a blood fat commonly called "bad cholesterol" and its connection to heart disease is well-known. Experts know less about the benefits of raising HDL, or a blood lipid called "good cholesterol," as a hedge against heart attack, and the role triglycerides levels play in coronary artery disease.
The latest study of thousands of research subjects found elevated levels of good cholesterol were not protective, while low triglyceride levels appear to be.
With the discovery of the four mutations, researchers say they now have a target to develop a drug to lower blood lipids, which in turn will lead to the reduced risk of heart attack and stroke.
"Given that these people are naturally protected, if you develop a medicine that mimics this, then your chances of it working in terms of reducing the risk of heart attack are quite great," Kathiresan said.
Many people still have elevated triglycerides despite exercising, eating a low fat, low carbohydrate diet and taking statin drugs. An agent that targets APOC3 may further reduce blood fats, lowering the risk of heart attack, he said.
These findings were shared in two papers published this week in the New England Journal of Medicine.
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