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Heart disease passed from father to son

Heart disease passed from father to son Scientists find DNA link

Coronary artery disease, which kills tens of thousands each year, may be passed genetically from father to son, according to a new study.

The study, led by the University of Leicester, shows that the Y chromosome - a part of DNA only present in men - plays a role in the inheritance of the disease.

Coronary artery disease involves the narrowing of blood vessels delivering blood to the heart, and can lead to angina symptoms, such as constriction of the chest, and heart attacks.   Scientists analysed DNA from over 3,000 men enrolled in a heart health study and found that 90 per cent of British Y chromosomes belong to one of two major groups.   The risk of coronary artery disease among men who carry a Y chromosome in one of the two groups is 50 per cent higher than for other men, and is independent of traditional risk factors such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure and smoking.   The researchers believe the increased risk is down to the specific group's influence on the immune system and inflammation.   Principal investigator Dr Maciej Tomaszewski said: “We are very excited about these findings as they put the Y chromosome on the map of genetic susceptibility to coronary artery disease. We wish to further analyse the human Y chromosome to find specific genes and variants that drive this association.   “The major novelty of these findings is that the human Y chromosome appears to play a role in the cardiovascular system beyond its traditionally perceived determination of male sex.

Dr Hélène Wilson, research advisor at the British Heart Foundation (BHF), which was the main funder of the study, said: “Lifestyle choices such as poor diet and smoking are major causes, but inherited factors carried in DNA are also part of the picture.

"The next step is to identify specifically which genes are responsible and how they might increase heart attack risk."

“This discovery could help lead to new treatments for heart disease in men, or tests that could tell men if they are at particularly high risk of a heart attack.

The study is published in The Lancet today.

This article was published on Thu 9 February 2012

Image © Pavel Losevsky -

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