Researchers develop new genetic tool to identify people at risk of coronary heart disease

Posted by pt91 at Sep 21, 2016 03:08 PM |
Genetic risk scores could pave the way for earlier intervention and lifestyle changes to prevent potentially deadly heart attacks

Issued by University of Leicester Press Office on 21 September 2016

A new genetic risk score that could help to identify individuals at risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) much earlier and potentially improve its prevention has been developed in research part-funded by the British Heart Foundation (BHF) (1) and the NIHR.

CHD affects over 2.3 million people in the UK and the disease is responsible for nearly 70,000 deaths in the UK each year – most caused by a heart attack (2).

The new test is a result of an international collaboration involving Professor Sir Nilesh Samani from the University of Leicester, who has recently been appointed BHF Medical Director, and researchers in Australia, Finland, Germany, and the Netherlands.

Genetic factors have long been known to make a significant contribution to CHD risk. Recent advances in genetics have led to the identification of many Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms, or SNPs – very small differences in our DNA that vary from person to person. The research, published today in the European Heart Journal, shows how using this new knowledge could pave the way for earlier and more personalised preventative interventions.

By looking at over 49,000 SNPs the researchers created a score, known as a genomic risk score (GRS) and showed that the higher the GRS the higher the future risk of CHD. People with a GRS in the top 20 per cent had an over 5-fold higher life-time risk of CHD than those in the bottom 20 per cent. This study is the first to look at a much larger number of SNPs to give a fuller picture of an individual’s genetic risk of developing CHD.

Currently, clinical risk scores are based on known risk factors for CHD such as cholesterol level, having high blood pressure or diabetes and smoking. But such scores are imprecise and unable to identify a large proportion of people who develop CHD. The researchers showed that the GRS was independent of the clinical risk scores and by combining the two risk score tools they were better able to predict people who were at risk of developing CHD in the next 10 years.

BHF Professor Sir Nilesh Samani from the University of Leicester, an author on the paper who has co-led the discovery of many of the genes associated with coronary heart disease, said:

“This is the first really large study showing the potential benefits of using a genetic risk score over and above current methods to identify people at increased risk of coronary heart disease. We already know that CHD starts at an early age, several decades before symptoms develop, and preventative measures should ideally be applied much earlier, especially to those who are at increased risk.

“Unfortunately, current clinical risk scores are not good at evaluating risk until middle-age. On the other hand the GRS, which is based on your DNA, can be applied at any age. Further studies are needed to demonstrate the precise clinical value of this approach in different populations. However earlier identification of people who would most benefit from lifestyle changes and medication to reduce their risk of a heart attack could save countless lives.”

Dr Mike Knapton, Associate Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation, which helped fund the research, said:

“This new tool could be invaluable in more accurately identifying people who are at an increased of developing heart disease.

“However, it’s important to remember that having a genetic predisposition to coronary heart disease does not guarantee that person will have a heart attack. Thanks to research, much of it funded by the BHF, people identified as being at increased risk can reduce their chances of having a heart attack by stopping smoking, exercising regularly, managing their weight and taking prescribed medication, such as a statin.”

Find out how the BHF is fighting back against heart disease at bhf.org.uk

ENDS

To request interviews or for more information please call the BHF press office on email newsdesk@bhf.org.uk

Notes to editors

1) Abraham G, Bhalala OG, Havulinna AS, De Livera AM, Byars SG, Yetukuri L, Tikkanen E, Perola M, Schunkert H, Sijbrands EJ, Palotie A, Samani NJ, Salomaa V, Ripatti S, Inouye M. Genomic prediction of coronary heart disease. European Heart Journal 2016. doi:10.1093/eurheartj/ehw450

2) Cardiovascular disease statistics 2015, BHF. Available at https://www.bhf.org.uk/statistics

3) To request a copy of the paper, please contact newsdesk@bhf.org.uk

British Heart Foundation

Coronary heart disease is the UK’s single biggest killer. For over 50 years we’ve pioneered research that’s transformed the lives of people living with heart and circulatory conditions. Our work has been central to the discoveries of vital treatments that are changing the fight against heart disease. But so many people still need our help. From babies born with life-threatening heart problems to the many Mums, Dads and Grandparents who survive a heart attack and endure the daily battles of heart failure. Every pound raised, minute of your time and donation to our shops will help make a difference to people’s lives.

Find out more at bhf.org.uk

The University of Leicester is led by discovery and innovation – an international centre for excellence renowned for research, teaching and broadening access to higher education. The University of Leicester is ranked among the top one per cent of universities in the world by the THE World University Rankings and also among the top 100 leading international universities in the world. It is among the top 25 universities in the Times Higher Education REF Research Power rankings with 75% of research adjudged to be internationally excellent with wide-ranging impacts on society, health, culture, and the environment.

Find out more: https://le.ac.uk/about-us

About the National Institute for Health Research

The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) is funded by the Department of Health to improve the health and wealth of the nation through research. Since its establishment in April 2006, the NIHR has transformed research in the NHS. It has increased the volume of applied health research for the benefit of patients and the public, driven faster translation of basic science discoveries into tangible benefits for patients and the economy, and developed and supported the people who conduct and contribute to applied health research. The NIHR plays a key role in the Government’s strategy for economic growth, attracting investment by the life-sciences industries through its world-class infrastructure for health research.

Share this page: