Hunt For Early Heart Attack Genes Begins

September 16, 1997

More than 2,000 people will be enrolled in a hunt for the genetic causes that underlie ?early? heart attacks that strike men and women in middle age. The study is part of the research program of the Starr Center for Human Genetics at The Rockefeller University in New York City.

"Finding the genes that contribute to heart attacks is the first step towards developing better methods for the prevention, early diagnosis and treatment for this disease that is single largest killer of American men and women," says Jan L. Breslow, M.D., head of The Rockefeller University's Laboratory of Biochemical Genetics and Metabolism and the immediate past-president of the American Heart Association (AHA).

Nearly 57.5 million Americans have one or more types of cardiovascular disease, which includes heart attacks, high blood pressure and stroke, according to the AHA. Heart attacks, which claimed more than 487,000 lives in 1994, cause one in every 4.7 American deaths. People younger than 65 account for 45 percent of heart attacks.

"We have good evidence that heart disease, including heart attacks, runs in families. Heart attacks result from a person's complex genetic makeup and his or her interactions with the environment including what he or she eats, how much he or she exercises and if he or she smokes. While we know a great deal about the influence of diet, exercise and cigarettes on heart disease, we do not yet know the identity of genes that would explain susceptibility to heart attacks," explains coinvestigator Elizabeth De Oliveira e Silva, M.D., research associate at Rockefeller.

To locate and determine the structure and function of one or more genes involved in heart attacks, the scientists will examine blood samples and medical histories of 2,000 people who have heart attacks at an early age. Because heart disease is likely to have various genetic causes, enrolling such a large study population will help the scientists hunt for several genes at the same time, notes Breslow, Frederick Henry Leonhardt Professor and a senior physician at The Rockefeller University Hospital.

Specifically, they will recruit:People interested in enrolling as participants should call Mary Lou Klimek, M.A., R.N. at 1-888-920-9100 or 212-327-7445 for more information. All information is kept confidential. People accepted into the study will be offered free blood cholesterol and lipoprotein analysis and information about modifying their risks of having a heart attack.

Participants will not need to come to the university for the study. The scientists will make arrangements to receive patient's medical histories and have samples of their blood analyzed at the Rockefeller University Hospital, the oldest hospital in the United States devoted solely to experimental medicine. Established in 1910, the hospital links laboratory investigations with bedside observations to provide a scientific basis for disease detection, prevention and treatment. This special hospital environment served as the model for the Warren G. Magnuson Clinical Center, opened at the National Institutes of Health in 1953, and similar facilities supported by federal funding at more than 75 medical schools in the United States.

Rockefeller University began in 1901 as the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research, the first U.S. biomedical research center. Rockefeller faculty members have made significant achievements, including the discovery that DNA is the carrier of genetic information and the launching of the scientific field of modern cell biology. The university has ties to 19 Nobel laureates, including the president, Torsten N. Wiesel, M.D., who received the prize in 1981. In addition to the Starr Center for Human Genetics, the university recently created centers to foster research of Alzheimer's Disease, of biochemistry and structural biology, of sensory neurosciences and of the links between physics and biology.
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Sept. 16, 1997

Rockefeller University

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