In a study to be published in the open-access journal PLoS Genetics on September 22nd, an international consortium of scientists report the discovery of five new genes that affect risk of developing coronary artery disease (CAD) and heart attacks.
Coronary artery disease is the commonest cause of premature death and disability in the world. The findings could, in the future, help in developing new treatments and improve prediction of CAD.
The Consortium examined 49,094 genetic variants in ~ 2100 genes of cardiovascular relevance, in 15,596 CAD cases and 34,992 controls (11,202 cases and 30,733 controls of European descent / 4,394 cases and 4,259 controls of South Asian origin) and replicated their principal findings in an additional 17,121 CAD cases and 40,473 controls. The study was funded by the British Heart Foundation and the National Institute for Health Research in the UK with additional funding from the NIH in the USA and from other funding sources in Europe. The work was also supported by the Leicester NIHR Biomedical Research Unit in Cardiovascular Disease, based at Glenfield Hospital, Leicester.
Co-principal investigator Professor Nilesh Samani, (British Heart Foundation Professor of Cardiology University of Leicester, UK) said: “The findings add to the growing list of genes, now over 30 that affect risk of CAD and heart attacks. The findings provide new insights into and understanding of the causal biological pathways that cause heart disease, and particularly highlight the role of lipids and inflammation”
Professor Hugh Watkins (co-principal investigator, British Heart Foundation Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine, University of Oxford) said: “Although the effects of the new genetic variants that we have identified are individually small, in the order of 5-10% per copy, new treatments that are developed on the basis of the findings could have a much broader effect, as we have learnt, for example with statins”.
Professor John Danesh (co-principal investigator, University of Cambridge) said: “This is one of the first genetic studies of CAD to include a significant proportion of subjects of South Asian origin. This ethnic group has a higher risk of CAD. Our study shows that many of the genes that affect risk of CAD do so similarly in European Caucasians as in South Asians.”
Dr Adam Butterworth (University of Cambridge) who co-ordinated the analysis said: “One of the other strengths of our study is that in the literature there were a lot of genes which had been suggested to be associated with CAD based on small studies. Our very large study has allowed us to clarify this literature, and show that most of these reported associations are spurious.”
For further information please contact:
Professor Nilesh J Samani, University of Leicester, +44 (0)116 2563021 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Professor Hugh Watkins, University of Oxford, +44 (0)1865 220257 or email@example.com
Professor John Danesh, University of Cambridge, +44  1223 741302 or firstname.lastname@example.org