For the past ten years, scientists have been trying to figure out if you’re going to get a disease by looking at your genes.
This is like adding up all the little differences in your DNA to see if you’re likely to get sick.
The problem is, these scores aren’t very accurate for people who aren’t of European descent. Why?
Because most of the DNA data we have is from people of European ancestry.
A New and Improved Method
Now, a group of researchers from the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard and Massachusetts General Hospital has found a better way.
They’ve made a new score that improves the accuracy of predicting heart disease for all people, no matter their ancestry.
How did they do it? They used data from genetic studies of over a million people. And to make the score even better, they also included data about things like blood pressure and body weight.
Their new score did a much better job predicting the risk for coronary artery disease, the number one killer worldwide, for people of African, European, Hispanic, and South Asian backgrounds.
The Bigger Picture
The results from this research, published in Nature Medicine, could change how we handle disease.
If we can tell earlier in life who is at high risk for heart disease, we could recommend things like medicine or lifestyle changes that could help.
This new method could even be used for other diseases and traits, not just heart disease.
One of the researchers, Dr. Amit V. Khera, put it like this: “The ability to identify genetic risk early in life is powerful because we don’t have to wait for clinical factors like high cholesterol to show up.”
How the New Method Was Made
To make the new score, the researchers looked at data from more than a million people. This included about 270,000 people with coronary artery disease.
This was much more data than they used in a previous study from 2018. They were also able to use more data from people of African, Hispanic, and South Asian descent.
Aniruddh Patel, one of the researchers, said, “The European-based scores developed in 2018 didn’t work so well in predicting risk for people with other ancestries.
So the scientific community has been focusing on improving prediction across different ancestries.”
The new score, called GPSMult, did a much better job identifying who was at high or low risk for heart disease than the old scores.
For example, people with a low score had less than a 1% chance of getting heart disease by middle age, compared to a 16% chance for people with a high score.
The Future of Genetic Predictions
This research shows that combining data from different traits and ancestries can make these genetic scores more accurate.
The researchers are now working to make the score even better by using even more diverse data and new methods. They also want to figure out how to best use these scores in real-world doctor’s offices.
Dr. Khera summed up the excitement of the team: “What’s exciting is that we still haven’t reached the theoretical maximum for how good a genetic predictor for heart disease can be, so these tests will continue to get even better in the coming years.”
If you care about heart health, please read studies about the best time to take vitamins to prevent heart disease and calcium supplements could harm your heart health.
For more information about heart health, please see recent studies that artificial sweeteners in food are linked to a higher risk of heart disease, and results showing people who have the lowest heart disease and stroke risks.
The study was published in Nature Medicine.
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