Scientists Link Genetic Contributor To Heart Disease Risk
June 18, 2013

Scientists Link Genetic Contributor To Heart Disease Risk

Lee Rannals for — Your Universe Online

Researchers from the University of Leicester have identified a potential genetic contributor that leads to an increased risk of heart disease in men.

The team wrote in the journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology that men who carry a particular type of the Y chromosome have an increased risk. They also identified the possible genes of the Y chromosome that could be responsible for its association with coronary artery disease, which is the narrowing of blood vessels delivering blood to the heart.

Researchers used a sample of around 2,000 men from four European populations for the study. They found that men in haplogroup I had lower numbers of copies of two important Y chromosome genes in macrophages, which is the type of white blood cells involved in both defense against infections and atherosclerosis.

"I believe, we have made another step forward to deciphering the genetic background behind increased risk of coronary artery disease in men with haplogroup I," said principal investigator Dr. Maciej Tomaszewski, a clinical senior lecturer at the University's Department of Cardiovascular Sciences. "We now want to investigate whether and how the down-regulation of UTY and PRKY genes in macrophages may translate into increased risk of coronary artery disease."

Tomaszewski said they hope to understand how human Y chromosomes regulate susceptibility to cardiovascular diseases and if there is anything doctors could be doing to better diagnose, prevent or treat them.

"What's intriguing about these latest findings is the discovery of two specific genes that may be linked to an increased risk of coronary heart disease," said Shannon Amoils, Senior Research Advisor at the British Heart Foundation, which partly-funded the study. "This is the first time this connection has been made, so it will be interesting to find out more as scientists explore the area further."

This study was a follow-up of an award-winning study showing that men with haplogroup I of the Y chromosome have a 50 percent greater risk for developing the disease.

"This study continues prize-winning research into the Y chromosome and heart health," Amolis added.

Although this study points to chromosomes as an indicator for a heightened risk of heart disease, one study shows we may only have to look in the mirror to know our risk. A study released earlier this past spring discovered that men with male-pattern baldness are nearly twice as likely to develop coronary artery disease. Scientists wrote in the journal BMJ Open that men who lost their hair earlier in life were at the greatest risk of developing the disease.