Scientists in the UK have developed a cheap genetic test that can identify people most at risk of heart attack in the future due to a genetic predisposition to heart disease. They will be warned in time to change their lifestyle to reduce cardiovascular risk.
The Genomic Risk Score (GRS) will cost around 45 euros, so it will be accessible for its widespread use by the population. It will help to detect people who, although they do not have the usual cardiovascular risk factors (eg high cholesterol and blood pressure), nevertheless have an increased risk of heart attack.
Since a person’s DNA does not change over time, the test could be done at any age, even in childhood, which is very useful, as coronary heart disease often begins many years before the first symptoms occur. GRS looks for specific combinations of dangerous genes rather than an individual gene. It can be done by taking blood or a saliva sample.
Researchers who published the journal in the American College of Cardiology, according to the BBC, analyzed the genome of about 480,000 people aged 40 to 69, including 22,000 with diagnosed coronary artery disease.
As chief investigator Dr. Michael Ingee of Cambridge University said, coronary heart disease is about half attributable to genetic causes and the rest half to environmental causes and lifestyle. However, he stressed, “until now, the genetic component in our assessment of risk is escaping, we are essentially in the dark about the genetic half.”
The new study shows that it is ultimately possible to have a diagnostic tool based on the genetic background. It was found that GRS participants had scores of up to 20% of the scale who were at least four times more likely to develop coronary artery disease than those whose genetic score ranked them at the lowest 20% of the scoring scale.
The researchers, however, said that “a lot of work still needs to be done” until the test is clinically exploited, as more studies and improved accuracy will be needed.