Genetic Test Could Show Risk of Heart Disease
A one-off genetic test has been developed that can show if a person is born with a predisposition to heart disease.
A positive test result could then mean the person takes steps to prevent them from having a heart attack.
An international team of researchers from the UK and Australia has used Biobank data to develop a ‘Genomic Risk Score’ (GRS), which looks a person’s DNA to see whether there are patterns of risky genes.
The researchers used data from 500,000 people aged between 40 and 69, including 22,000 who had coronary heart disease.
Coronary heart disease is caused by a build-up of fatty substances in the coronary arteries (the arteries around the heart). This restricts the flow of blood to the heart. The disease is the main cause of heart attacks.
There are many factors that contribute to the risk of developing coronary heart disease, including smoking, having high blood pressure, being overweight, having diabetes and having high cholesterol levels.
Role of genetics
However, it is also known that genetics play a part in someone’s risk of developing coronary heart disease.
Currently, healthcare professionals assess someone’s risk by looking at their cholesterol levels, their blood pressure, and finding out whether they smoke or have diabetes.
This new test will enable healthcare professionals to assess the genetic aspect of heart disease risk. It is thought that once fully developed and tested, the GRS test will be cheap (around £40 per test) and quick, as it will be done using a mouth swab.
The test results will identify people who have a score in the top 20%, as they are more than four times more likely to develop coronary heart disease than those people whose score is in the bottom 20%.
The test will be able to be used on people of any age, including in childhood, as a person’s DNA does not change. This means people will be able to be identified earlier than they currently are.
Ease the burden
Senior author Professor Sir Nilesh Samani said the GRS test “could provide a most cost-effective way of preventing the enormous burden of coronary heart disease, by helping doctors select patients who would most benefit from interventions and avoiding unnecessary screening and treatments for those unlikely to benefit.”
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