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Gene therapy may be the future in heart disease treatment

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In a recent study on the genetics of heart disease , researchers at the University of Michigan Medical School and School of Public Health, found that the level of cholesterol and other lipids in the blood is influenced by a number of changes in human DNA . Using genome wide association study ( GWAS ) techniques, researchers found more than 150 changes in human DNA that influence blood cholesterol levels. The results of the study, published in the journal Nature Genetics, reveals a new perspective on cardiovascular disease and could be the starting point for the development of new drugs for hypertension, type 2 diabetes, obesity and coronary artery disease.

These changes point genes that control cholesterol and other blood lipids and can become therapeutic targets in the future. What is interesting is that many of these genes are new as it is for the first that are associated with blood lipids. The study also points out that triglycerides significantly influence heart disease much more than previously thought . Cristen Willer , Ph.D., the lead author of one paper and year assistant professor of Internal Medicine, Human Genetics and Computational Medicine & Bioinformatics at the UM Medical School, said that these results give new clues about the biology of lipids and more places to look than before.

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According to Willer, once researchers will have time to investigate these new clues, they will have a better understanding of the biology of lipids and cardiovascular disease and potential new targets for treatment. Professor Gonçalo Abecasis , Ph.D., from the UM School of Public Health and senior author of the paper,  added that however much work will be needed to study these new genes involved in heart disease and to test potential drugs.

It seems that genetic variations that influence LDL cholesterol and triglycerides increase the risk of heart disease , which raises a question regarding the role of HDL cholesterol ( good cholesterol ). Studies so far have shown that drugs that alter HDL cholesterol do not bring many benefits in terms of preventing heart disease.

Cardiovascular diseases such as hypertension, chest pain or myocardial infarction are due primarily to an unhealthy lifestyle. We know that lack of exercise, fast food, stress, obesity, smoking are the main factors that promote heart disease. Although certain drugs such as statins ( cholesterol lowering drugs ) or the antihypertensive may improve the health of a patient with heart disease, still the best way to prevent cardiovascular events consists of diet and physical activity.