April 11, 2007 / 9:13 AM / 12 years ago

No genetic link found for heart risk, study says

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Genetic testing failed to find any gene mutations that predict a higher risk of heart disease, a study released on Tuesday said.

Scientists at Yale University worked up the genetic profiles of nearly 1,500 people to examine 85 genes that smaller, earlier studies suggested might confer susceptibility to heart problems.

More than half the patients had come to a hospital having suffered a heart attack or other acute symptoms, while the others had experienced no heart trouble.

Only one genetic variation showed even a modest association to heart problems in the study, which was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

“We therefore conclude that our findings, in this large sample ... cannot support that this panel of gene variants contains bona fide (heart disease) risk factors,” study author Dr. Thomas Morgan wrote. Morgan is now at Washington University in St. Louis.

A significant proportion of pregnant women opt for genetic testing to determine if the fetus will develop an array of potential ailments such as cystic fibrosis or a form of mental retardation.

Increasingly, genetic testing is also being performed later in life to detect if a person has a higher risk of contracting diseases such as Alzheimer’s or inherited breast cancer.

The availability of genetic testing also raises complex ethical questions, such as who should know about a person’s risk and what should be done about it.

“Our findings come at a critical juncture in complex disease genetics,” Morgan wrote, adding that several clinics offer genetic tests for several of the gene mutations his study examined.

“However, our findings suggest that such clinical genetic testing is premature and underscore the importance of robust replication studies of reported associations prior to their application to clinical care,” he added.

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