University of Leicester team help find genes in bid to beat disease
Researchers from the University of Leicester have helped to discover a range of genes that indicate a person might have a higher risk of suffering a heart attack.
The findings could pave the way to finding new treatments for coronary heart disease, which affects more than 10,000 city residents and kills more than 400 each year, and can be inherited from family members.
The international study – the biggest of its kind ever carried out – involved nearly 200,000 people from 14 countries in Europe, Asia and the Americas, including about 1,500 patients from Leicestershire.
The team of researchers from the University of Leicester was led by Professor Nilesh Samani, British Heart Foundation Professor of cardiology and heart consultant at Leicester's hospitals, who was one of the lead authors of the study.
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He said: "We have been able to identify 15 new genetic areas linked with heart disease, bringing the total we now know about to 46.
"One of the important areas is that some genes play a part in causing inflammation, which can be a significant cause of heart attacks.
"By finding these genes, I hope it will help pharmaceutical companies to develop drugs to damp down inflammation and reduce the risk of patients developing heart disease.
A team of analysts from the University of Leicester had the task of looking at the results from DNA in blood samples in all the centres and analysing them for the study.
The findings could in future help patients such as Ballu Patel, from Belgrave, Leicester, who had a heart attack six years ago.
Mr Patel, who is also chairman of the Leicester Mercury Patients' Panel, said: "When I had my heart attack I was surprised, and so were my family and those around me, because I did exercise regularly and I was eating quite well. Doctors did say one explanation could be it was due to hereditary factors."
The father-of-three had to have a stent fitted to open his artery which had become blocked and led to the heart attack, but his heart is still badly damaged.
Mr Patel said: "This new study is a significant piece of research that will help the younger generation. I am also proud of the fact it is being carried out in Leicester."
Professor Peter Weissberg, medical director at the British Heart Foundation, which co-funded the study, said: "This further confirms that blood lipids (cholesterol) and inflammation are at the heart of the development of the process that leads to heart attack and strokes.
"These studies don't take us any closer to a genetic test to predict risk of heart disease because this is determined by the subtle interplay between dozens, if not hundreds of minor genetic variations.
"The real value lies in the identification of biological pathways that lead to the development of heart disease."
The study was published online in Nature Genetics yesterday.
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