Genetic Study Finds New Gene and Pathway that Prevent Heart Attacks

A new study of genetic data from more than 190,000 people has identified genes that, when altered in specific ways, reduce the risk of heart disease. The findings may help guide efforts to design new preventive drugs, similar to the way statins are now prescribed to lower LDL-cholesterol, that are focused on reducing the risk of heart disease.

The results of the research study, led by Nathan Stitziel, MD, PhD, a Washington University cardiologist and Assistant Professor of Medicine and Genetics, appeared online this week in the New England Journal of Medicine.

“We identified genetic variation in several genes that associated with protection from coronary heart disease,” said Stitziel. “Our findings support the idea that therapies focused on a major pathway regulating triglycerides should help prevent the buildup of plaque in the heart’s coronary arteries and protect against heart attacks.”

After conducting a search across the genomes of 190,000 participants, Stitziel and his colleagues identified genetic changes in two genes, ANGPTL4 and SVEP1, that were definitively associated with heart attack. The genetic change in SVEP1 associated with higher risk of heart attack while the change in ANGPTL4 associated with protection from heart disease. The investigators sequenced ANGPTL4 and found that loss of function mutations were associated with both lower levels of triglycerides and a reduction in risk of heart attack.ANGPTL4 is a member of the lipoprotein lipase pathway which is also highlighted by this study.

In summarizing the translational potential, Stitziel said “our findings support the idea that therapies focused on modulating the lipoprotein lipase pathway should not only reduce levels of circulating triglyceride-rich lipoproteins but also protect against heart attacks.”

Read more on Washington University School of Medicine’s site »

The research was published online March 2, 2016 in the New England Journal of Medicine.