Washington: A common heart disease, which kills thousands of people each year, may be passed genetically from father to son, a new study has said.
According to a study led by the University of Leicester, the Y chromosome, a part of DNA present only in men, plays a role in the inheritance of coronary artery disease (CAD).
The study, led by researchers at the University’s Department of Cardiovascular Sciences and Department of Genetics, took four years to complete and was primarily funded by the British Heart Foundation.
Coronary artery disease is the name given to the narrowing of blood vessels delivering blood to the heart, meaning that not enough oxygen can reach it. This can lead to angina symptoms, such as constriction of the chest, and heart attacks.
The British Heart Foundation found that coronary artery disease, also known as coronary heart disease, caused 88,236 deaths in 2008 in the United Kingdom, with 49,665 deaths among men and 38,571 among women.
The team at the University of Leicester analysed DNA from over 3,000 men from British Heart Foundation Family Heart Study (BHF-FHS) and the West of Scotland Coronary Prevention Study (WOSCOPS).
They found that 90 percent of British Y chromosomes belong to one of two major groups – named haplogroup I and haplogroup R1b1b2.
The risk of coronary artery disease among men who carry a Y chromosome from haplogroup I is 50 percent higher than other men, and the risk is independent of traditional risk factors such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure and smoking.
The researchers believe the increased risk is down to the haplogroup I’s influence on the immune system and inflammation – how one’s body responds to infections.
“We are very excited about these findings as they put the Y chromosome on the map of genetic susceptibility to coronary artery disease. We wish to further analyse the human Y chromosome to find specific genes and variants that drive this association,” Maciej Tomaszewski, principal investigator of the study, said.
“The major novelty of these findings is that the human Y chromosome appears to play a role in the cardiovascular system beyond its traditionally perceived determination of male sex.
“The University of Leicester has been at the forefront of genetic research for many years. The success of this study builds up on excellence of support for genetic studies in the Department of Cardiovascular Sciences and the Leicester Cardiovascular Biomedical Research Unit,” Tomaszewski added.
The study has been recently published in medical journal The Lancet.