Risk of Heart Attack Identified in Your Genes

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Hair colour, skin tone and a pending heart attack - our genetic make-up can tell all.

Findings from Heart Foundation funded researcher A/Prof Michael Inouye published in the European Heart Journal(1) today have the potential to transform the way in which coronary heart disease risk is managed and inform what lifestyle choices individuals make.

“About half of coronary heart disease (CHD) risk is inherited, yet current CHD risk approaches don't use genetics. We’re researching the genomics of CHD to better capture an individual's risk of the disease,” A/Prof Inouye said.

“By quantifying genomic risk and building predictive tools, our study shows that we can potentially distinguish very early in life which individuals are at high risk of CHD as well as those who may have an event, such as heart attack, earlier than others.

“If an individual has a high genomic risk of CHD they may choose to change their diet or exercise habits or be prescribed lipid-lowering medication earlier than an individual at low genomic risk.

“In addition to longer and healthier lives, stratification such as this could offer significant cost savings to the health system.”

Through his Heart Foundation Fellowship funding, the University of Melbourne based A/Prof Inouye has been able to collaborate with others on the project, including lead author Gad Abraham, who have been integral to its success.

“As medical researchers we’re driven to improve the human condition, in particular heart disease,” A/Prof Inouye said.

“There is a real opportunity to roll back the burden of heart disease using genomics and sophisticated data analysis. As computational biologists, our strengths are at the interface of biology, computer science and statistics.

“We are well placed to tackle problems using the latest genomic and multi-omic technologies, however, our success depends on the curiosity of the community to understand itself.”

With Big Heart Appeal conducted throughout September, A/Prof Inouye said people joining observational studies and clinical trials was the foundation for identifying new patterns in the data and making useful tools out of them.

“We’re at a real inflection point in medical research and every hour and dollar counts, so participate and if appropriate, give generously,” he said.

Heart Foundation Chief Executive Officer Adj Prof John Kelly congratulated A/Prof Inouye and his team on their research, which built on the Foundation’s legacy of excellence and dedication to discovery in heart disease research.

“Medical research funding into heart disease is vital if more lives are to be saved by developing cures for many related heart conditions,” Adj Prof Kelly said.

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1 - Abraham G, Bhalala OG, Havulinna AS, De Livera AM, Byars SG, Yetukuri L, Tikkanen E, Perola M, Schunkert H, Sijbrands EJ, Palotie A, Samani NJ, Salomaa V, Ripatti S, Inouye M. Genomic prediction of coronary heart disease. European Heart Journal 2016. doi:10.1093/eurheartj/ehw450