A common variant of a gene involved in inflammation is associated with a significantly increased risk of heart attack in Americans of European and of African descent. The variant is associated with a greater risk in the African-American population in particular.
Anna Helgadottir and Kári Stefansson and colleagues report in a paper published online by Nature Genetics this week, that genetic markers surrounding the LTA4 gene encoding the leukotriene A4 hydrolase enzyme indicate the risk variant may originally have come from the European American population, where it is slightly more prevalent in those who have suffered myocardial infarction, or heart attack, the risk variant is 1.16-1.19. But this variant is 3.57 times more common in African American individuals who have had a heart attack than in African Americans who have not.
There are at least two possible reasons why the risk variant is more prevalent in African Americans who have had a heart attack. This difference may reflect the interaction of the risk variant with environmental or social influences that vary between the groups. Or the risk variant might interact with gene variants elsewhere in the genome that are themselves present at different frequencies in these two groups in the American population because of their divergent ancestral histories. Around 7.1 million Americans age 20 and older have survived a heart attack, and coronary heart disease is the United States' single leading cause of death.
Kári Stefansson (deCODE Genetics Inc., Reykjavik, Iceland)
Edward M. Farmer - Director of Corporate Communication (deCODE Genetics Inc., Reykjavik, Iceland)
Abstract available online: Helgadottir/Stefansson Paper.
(C) Nature Genetics press release.
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