Dads’ DNA linked to heart health of their sons
Published 09/02/2012 | 07:44
FATHERS with a common genetic variant can pass an increased risk of heart disease onto their sons, a study has shown.
The danger lies in a particular version of the male Y chromosome which is only present in men.
Scientists found that a version of the chromosome carried by 15pc to 20pc of British men was linked to a 50pc higher chance of coronary artery disease (CAD), which can lead to heart attacks.
The effect was independent of traditional heart disease risk factors such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
CAD, also known as coronary heart disease, narrows blood vessels and typically affects men 10 years earlier than women.
The disease reduces the delivery of oxygenated blood to heart muscle, resulting in angina chest pains and heart attacks which kill 50,000 men each year in the UK.
The new research involved more than 3,000 men taking part in three heart investigations - the British Heart Foundation Family Heart Study, the West of Scotland Coronary Prevention Study, and the Cardiogenics Study.
DNA analysis showed that 90pc of the men carried one of two common versions of the Y chromosomes, called haplogroup I and haplogroup R1b1b2.
Men in haplogroup I category had a 50pc higher risk of coronary artery disease compared with other men.
The increased risk may be linked to the chromosome's influence on the immune system and inflammation, scientists believe.
Lead researcher Dr Maciej Tomaszewski, from the University of Leicester's Department of Cardiovascular Sciences, said: "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.
"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 findings are published in an early online edition of The Lancet medical journal.
Men with haplogroup I Y chromosomes had immune systems that were more likely to trigger inflammation, which is known to be linked to artery disease.
Dr Helene Wilson, from the British Heart Foundation, which provided most of the funding for the research, said: "This study shows that genetic variations on the Y chromosome - the piece of DNA that only men have - can greatly increase a man's risk of coronary heart disease.
"Lifestyle choices such as poor diet and smoking are major causes, but inherited factors carried in DNA are also part of the picture.
"The next step is to identify specifically which genes are responsible and how they might increase heart attack risk.
"This discovery could help lead to new treatments for heart disease in men, or tests that could tell men if they are at particularly high risk of a heart attack.
"One of the fascinating things about the study is that it might provide a partial explanation why north-western European men have more heart attacks than their counterparts in other parts of the world."