Researchers discover genetic risks for type of heart attack largely affecting younger women
England, United Kingdom: A team of researchers have identified new genes associated with an increased risk of a type of heart attack that primarily affects young to middle-aged women.
Research led by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) Leicester Biomedical Research Centre (BRC) and Universite Paris Cite and results of the findings were published in Nature Genetics.
SCAD, or Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection, is caused by a bruise or bleed in the wall of a coronary artery, cutting off blood flow to a portion of the heart. This results in a heart attack. SCAD, in contrast to other forms of heart attacks, is more frequent in women under the age of 60 and is a primary cause of heart attacks during pregnancy. Furthermore, those who have had a SCAD are typically healthy, and SCAD can occur more than once.
To date, little is known about why a SCAD happens, often striking out of the blue, meaning that it is currently impossible to prevent.
The researchers present a genome-wide association meta-analysis involving a total of 1,917 cases of SCAD and 9,292 controls from European ancestry. They found 16 genes that increased the risk of a SCAD. The identified genes are involved in processes that determine how the cells and connective tissue hold together, and also how the blood clots when bleeding occurs in tissues.
Interestingly, the researchers found that, while many genes linked to a higher risk of SCAD are shared with risk genes for conventional coronary artery disease (CAD), they have an opposite effect. This means patients with a SCAD have some genetic protection from the risk of CAD, and is further evidence that these diseases are very different. The only shared risk factor appeared to be genetically elevated blood pressure.
Dr David Adlam, Associate Professor of Acute and Interventional Cardiology at the University of Leicester, and lead author of the study, said: "This research confirms that there are multiple genes involved in determining the risk of a person having a SCAD. These genes give us the first key insight into the underlying causes of this disease and provide new lines of enquiry, which we hope will guide future new treatment approaches.
"We are grateful to Beat SCAD, the NIHR and the British Heart Foundation for funding our work, to our international partners for their collaboration and for all the patients with SCAD and healthy volunteers who gave their time to advance this research."