Study finds 10 genes that raise sudden death risk

CHICAGO, (Reuters) – Researchers have found nine  new gene variations that can make a person vulnerable to sudden  cardiac death and confirmed the role of another, international  researchers said yesterday.

“Almost half were surprising new genes that no one would  have guessed as being involved in cardiac biology,” said Dan  Arking of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, whose  team was one of many working on the study in the journal Nature  Genetics.

Last month, Arking’s group reported in the journal Circulation that it had found a single gene that raises the  risk of cardiac death. The new study identifies that gene plus  nine new ones that modify the timing of heart contractions, a  measure known as the QT interval.

People with prolonged QT intervals have a higher risk of  cardiac death, which accounts for more than 400,000 deaths each  year in the United States, according to the American College of  Cardiology.

“Sudden cardiac death is a real problem. You don’t get a second chance,” Arking said in a telephone interview.

The study of 15,842 people showed that the more of these 10  variants a person has, the greater the chances of having a  prolonged QT interval.

A heart attack can raise the risk of having this type of abnormal heart rhythm, but people who inherit this genetic risk are often never identified.

“The problem in some sense is most of these people have no  known risk factors. They don’t have high cholesterol. They are not obese. In some sense, the genetics may be the only hope for some of these people,” Arking said.

The next step is to try to identify how great a role each  of these genes play in raising risks. Ultimately, he said, the  findings might offer a target for new drugs.

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