A world-wide consortium of researchers, including scientists from the Twin Research Unit at King’s College London, has identified 59 novel regions of the human genome that are involved in lipid metabolism. The concentrations of lipids, such as cholesterols, in the blood are the most important risk factors for Coronary Artery Disease (CAD).
This study represents the most comprehensive analysis to identify the biological underpinnings of lipoprotein metabolism. It aimed to find new biomarkers for lipid concentrations in the blood that can serve as indicators for an increased risk of developing CAD. These findings could provide the foundations for developing targeted drugs that suppress these key genes involved in metabolising the lipids, thereby preventing heart disease.
Men and women after menopause are at equal risk for developing CAD, which is currently the leading cause of death in the world, significantly impacting health, quality of life, and longevity. CAD develops when the arteries that supply blood to the heart muscle narrow through a build-up of lipids such as cholesterol, allowing less blood to flow through the arteries. As a result, the heart muscle lacks the blood and oxygen it needs, which can lead to chest pain or a heart attack. An estimated 1.5 million men and 1.2 million women in the UK live with the disease.
The researchers analysed the genome-wide association results for serum lipids in more than 100,000 individuals of European ancestry. In total, they identified 95 regions of the human genome, which include regions previously identified in other studies and 59 novel regions, that play a role in lipid metabolism. The study also demonstrated that some of these genetic locations were shared by European and non-European populations, thereby making the findings relevant on a global scale.
Dr Massimo Mangino of the Department of Twin Research & Genetic Epidemiology says: ‘This study represents a significant piece in the complex genetic jigsaw to understand the risks of developing Coronary Artery Disease. As this is the largest such study ever undertaken, with a sample that ensured international significance of the results, we are hopeful that it will provide a basis for further research into CAD biomarkers, and to enable new drugs to fight this dangerous condition.’
Notes to editors
Tanya M. Teslovich et al.: ‘Biological, clinical and population relevance of 95 loci for blood lipids’, Nature Volume 466 Number 7307. A copy of the paper is available on:http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v466/n7307/full/nature09270.html
Petersen S., Peto V. and Rayner M. Coronary heart disease statistics. British Heart Foundation: London; 2004; quoted from http://www.coronaryarterydisease.co.uk
King’s College London
King’s College London is one of the top 25 universities in the world (Times Higher Education 2009) and the fourth oldest in England. A research-led university based in the heart of London, King’s has nearly 23,000 students (of whom more than 8,600 are graduate students) from nearly 140 countries, and some 5,500 employees. King’s is in the second phase of a £1 billion redevelopment programme which is transforming its estate.
King’s has an outstanding reputation for providing world-class teaching and cutting-edge research. In the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise for British universities, 23 departments were ranked in the top quartile of British universities; over half of our academic staff work in departments that are in the top 10 per cent in the UK in their field and can thus be classed as world leading. The College is in the top seven UK universities for research earnings and has an overall annual income of nearly £450 million.
King’s has a particularly distinguished reputation in the humanities, law, the sciences (including a wide range of health areas such as psychiatry, medicine and dentistry) and social sciences including international affairs. It has played a major role in many of the advances that have shaped modern life, such as the discovery of the structure of DNA and research that led to the development of radio, television, mobile phones and radar. It is the largest centre for the education of healthcare professionals in Europe; no university has more Medical Research Council Centres.
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