We already know that inflammation is linked to heart disease but this genetic research shows the protein – called the interleukin-6 (IL-6) receptor – is involved in causing it.
CHD is responsible for more than 88,000 deaths in the UK each year so studies like these that improve our understanding of its causes are vital. We part-funded both studies.
These two studies provide very strong evidence new medicines could be a powerful tool in helping to combat heart disease
The two international studies, from University of Cambridge and University College London, looked at the genetics of more than 300,000 people. The results suggest anti-inflammatory drugs could be used to reduce atherosclerosis, the build up of fatty deposits in coronary arteries, by targeting the IL-6 receptor.
Professor Jeremy Pearson, our Associate Medical Director, said: “These two powerful complementary studies provide very strong evidence that new medicines, which reduce inflammation by blocking the IL-6 receptor, could be a powerful tool in helping to combat heart disease.
“A drug taken by some people with rheumatoid arthritis, called tocilizumab, already works in this way. But it’s not ideal because it appears to increase cholesterol levels so further research is needed to find additional drugs that target this protein.”
The research was published online in the Lancet.
British Heart Foundation is a registered Charity No. 225971. Registered as a Company limited by guarantee in England & Wales No. 699547.