In a study from the Queen Mary University of London and elsewhere, scientists found hundreds of new links between people’s DNA and the heart’s electrical activity.
The results could one day lead to advanced screening methods to discern who is at the greatest risk of developing the disease and could help reveal new genetic targets for research and drug development.
Over the past 10 years, researchers have identified many genetic factors that contribute to—or protect against—the onset of specific heart diseases.
However, it has been difficult to find genetic factors associated with arrhythmias—one of the most common forms of heart disease where the heart beats abnormally.
In the study, scientists from more than 140 institutions looked at data from 293,051 people across the world.
They study the individual genomes and their measurements on an electrocardiogram—one of the oldest and most widely used heart diagnostic tests.
They specifically studied the length of time between two points on the electrocardiogram read-out known as the “PR interval,” which is linked to a number of common electrical disorders such as atrial fibrillation and other arrhythmias.
The findings report 202 locations in the genome with links to this type of electrical activity in the heart—141 of which had not been previously identified.
This more than triples the number of known genetic regions linked to this type of electrical activity and explains about 62 percent of its heritability.
This is the largest global study to test the genetic basis of the PR interval—a well-established electrocardiogram risk marker for heart disease and mortality.
The insights provide new knowledge on biological processes relating to the heart’s electrical activity and potential avenues of drug research for preventing and treating heart conditions.”
The findings indicate that an individual’s inherited predisposition to heart disease is not the result of single-gene mutations, but rather a cumulative effect of many variants across the genome.
If you care about heart health, please read studies that eating whole eggs bad for your heart, and Flu, COVID-19, and related vaccines may increase heart disease risk.
For more information about heart health, please see recent studies that anxiety in women may mask heart disease symptoms, and results showing 38-year-old learns the surprising reason she had a heart attack.
The study was published in the journal Nature Communications and conducted by Professor Patricia Munroe et al.
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