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Boffins in genetic heart disease breakthrough

By Steve Connor

Scientists have found the largest number of genes associated with an increased risk of developing heart disease in a new study.

It helps pave the way towards the day when doctors may be able to offer genetic tests that can identify people most at risk of heart attacks and strokes.

The genetic basis of heart disease is well established — it explains why some people live long lives despite unhealthy lifestyles while others die young — but it is only through decoding the human genome that scientists have been able to start pinpointing the actual genes involved.

In one of the biggest studies so far, involving 140,000 people from across the world, scientists have identified 13 genetic mutations out of the three billion-long sequence of ‘letters’ in the human genome, that each confer a small but significant increased risk of coronary heart disease.

The scientists behind the study, published in the journal Nature Genetics, believe that the breakthrough will help to identify the genes that are involved in, for example, the build-up of fatty deposits inside the walls of coronary arteries which leads to atherosclerosis and heart disease.

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