Can genetic testing help evaluate risk of heart disease

US researchers have launched a clinical trial in which genetic testing is used to identify men and women at risk of developing heart disease based on the makeup of their DNA.

If proven effective in clinical trials, this form of genetic testing may be adopted globally to prevent heart disease – the number one killer in the world.

“This should be the last century of heart disease,” said Robert Roberts, Medical Director of Cardiovascular Genomics for Dignity Health hospital in Arizona.

Throughout the duration of the study, the researchers will collect DNA samples from approximately 2,000 men and women aged between 40 and 60 with no known history of heart disease.

The DNA samples will then be analysed to determine if the participants have genetic markers known to cause heart disease.

Once the DNA genotyping is completed, the team at Dignity will evaluate each participant’s genetic markers to determine if they have a low, medium or high chance of developing heart disease.

Other health and lifestyle factors will also be considered when determining the participants’ risk of heart disease. These include hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol and whether the participant smokes or is physically active, among others.

“I am hopeful that through the results of this study we will be able to save even more lives in the future by implementing genetic testing for early prevention of coronary artery disease as routine clinical application. This approach would represent a paradigm shift in the prevention of this disease,” Roberts said.

Previously, studies have found strong DNA links to heart attack.

Research has shown that high cholesterol levels from birth can be caused by a common genetic condition called familial hypercholesterolemia (FH). It can lead to a high risk of coronary heart disease from an early age, and some estimates suggest that by the age of 70, one in every two patients with FH would have had a coronary heart disease event.

In a paper published in the European Heart Journal, research from Monash University in Australia, stated that DNA testing for FH in early adulthood via the public healthcare system could identify thousands more people with FH early, who could then be provided access to prevention that would save lives.


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