Nav: Home

Researchers identify gene that may play a central role in heart disease

June 07, 2017

Heart disease kills more than 600,000 Americans every year, which translates to more than one in every four deaths. Although lifestyle choices contribute to the disease, genetics play a major role. This genetic facet has remained largely mysterious. But new research by scientists at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UM SOM) has identified what may be a key player: a mutated gene that leads to irregular heartbeat, which can lead to a dangerously inefficient heart.

The findings were published today in the journal Science Advances. The study is the first to illuminate details of how this particular gene, which is called OBSCN, works in heart disease. The gene produces proteins known as obscurins, which seem to be crucial to many physiologic processes, including heart function.

"This study gives us new information about the involvement of obscurins in the mechanics of heart disease," said the senior author of the study, Aikaterini Kontrogianni-Konstantopoulos, PhD, Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at UM SOM. "It suggests that people carrying a mutated version of OBSCN may develop heart disease."

For almost two decades, Dr. Kontrogianni-Konstantopoulos has been studying the OBSCN gene and obscurin proteins. Research has found that the gene is often mutated; some of these mutations may play a role in heart disease and certain cancers. She and her colleagues have recently shown that one mutation may play a role in the development of congenital heart disease. However, the cell processes that are affected by the OBSCN mutation have remained largely a mystery. In this latest study, Dr. Kontrogianni-Konstantopoulos and her team unraveled this question. They focused on a mutation that has been linked to an enlarged heart, also known as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. In this condition, the heart muscle becomes thickened and scarred, and has trouble pumping blood. She created a strain of mouse that carries the mutation, and then divided the animals into three groups: a group that experienced no stress, one that experienced moderate stress, and one that experienced significant stress.

She found that animals in the no-stress group developed irregular heartbeat, also known as arrhythmia. The mildly stressed animals developed thickened hearts, and the severely stressed animals developed hearts that were scarred and ineffective.

Dr. Kontrogianni-Konstantopoulos is one of several scientists who first discovered OBSCN in 2001. Prior to that it was all but unknown, hence its name. Since then, she has studied the gene, focusing on its role in both heart disease and cancer. She currently has several other ongoing studies of its effects in both heart disease and cancer.

It is not clear exactly how the mutated OBSCN gene causes heart problems. Her study is the first one to examine this question in relation to the obscurin mutations. She and her colleagues found evidence that the particular mutation they focused on may affect the ability of a protein called phospholamban to regulate the movement of calcium in heart muscle cells; this movement plays a crucial role in controlling how the heart contracts and relaxes. If this process goes awry, the heart does not function properly.

Dr. Kontrogianni-Konstantopoulos says this work could eventually lead to targeted therapies for people who have OBSCN mutations.
-end-


University of Maryland School of Medicine

Related Heart Disease Articles:

Where you live could determine risk of heart attack, stroke or dying of heart disease
People living in parts of Ontario with better access to preventive health care had lower rates of cardiac events compared to residents of regions with less access, found a new study published in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).
Older adults with heart disease can become more independent and heart healthy with physical activity
Improving physical function among older adults with heart disease helps heart health and even the oldest have a better quality of life and greater independence.
Dietary factors associated with substantial proportion of deaths from heart disease, stroke, and disease
Nearly half of all deaths due to heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes in the US in 2012 were associated with suboptimal consumption of certain dietary factors, according to a study appearing in the March 7 issue of JAMA.
Certain heart fat associated with higher risk of heart disease in postmenopausal women
For the first time, researchers have pinpointed a type of heart fat, linked it to a risk factor for heart disease and shown that menopausal status and estrogen levels are critical modifying factors of its associated risk in women.
Maternal chronic disease linked to higher rates of congenital heart disease in babies
Pregnant women with congenital heart defects or type 2 diabetes have a higher risk of giving birth to babies with severe congenital heart disease and should be monitored closely in the prenatal period, according to a study published in CMAJ.
Novel heart valve replacement offers hope for thousands with rheumatic heart disease
A novel heart valve replacement method is revealed today that offers hope for the thousands of patients with rheumatic heart disease who need the procedure each year.
Younger heart attack survivors may face premature heart disease death
For patients age 50 and younger, the risk of premature death after a heart attack has dropped significantly, but their risk is still almost twice as high when compared to the general population, largely due to heart disease and other smoking-related diseases The risk of heart attack can be greatly reduced by quitting smoking, exercising and following a healthy diet.
Citrus fruits could help prevent obesity-related heart disease, liver disease, diabetes
Oranges and other citrus fruits are good for you -- they contain plenty of vitamins and substances, such as antioxidants, that can help keep you healthy.
Gallstone disease may increase heart disease risk
A history of gallstone disease was linked to a 23 percent increased risk of developing coronary heart disease.
Americans are getting heart-healthier: Coronary heart disease decreasing in the US
Coronary heart disease is one of the leading causes of death in the United States.

Related Heart Disease Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Anthropomorphic
Do animals grieve? Do they have language or consciousness? For a long time, scientists resisted the urge to look for human qualities in animals. This hour, TED speakers explore how that is changing. Guests include biological anthropologist Barbara King, dolphin researcher Denise Herzing, primatologist Frans de Waal, and ecologist Carl Safina.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#532 A Class Conversation
This week we take a look at the sociology of class. What factors create and impact class? How do we try and study it? How does class play out differently in different countries like the US and the UK? How does it impact the political system? We talk with Daniel Laurison, Assistant Professor of Sociology at Swarthmore College and coauthor of the book "The Class Ceiling: Why it Pays to be Privileged", about class and its impacts on people and our systems.