Scientists develop assay for heart disease risk

October 18, 1999

Listen to the evening news: risk factors for heart disease lie about us like booby-traps. Some of these risks lie in our food and our fun - and still others lie within us. With the number of genes implicated in heart disease steadily increasing, scientists hoping to understand the interactions between multiple genetic risk factors must find a way to manage this growing menagerie. In the October issue of Genome Research, Suzanne Cheng (Roche Molecular Systems), John Kane (University of California, San Francisco) and colleagues report a new assay to help scientists investigate composite genetic risk for heart disease.

The genes implicated in heart disease control a variety of body functions, from fat metabolism to blood pressure regulation. Each of these genes has variations that may represent greater or lesser risk for heart disease. Cheng and colleagues attached probes for 70 of these gene variations onto nylon strips. They then passed individuals' DNA that had been dye-labeled over the strips, resulting in dark bands wherever the labeled DNA bound to a particular probe. The band pattern identifies which gene variations an individual possesses, providing a snapshot of his or her potential genetic risk. By allowing researchers quick access to individuals' genetic profiles, this assay will help pinpoint specific combinations of gene variations that associate with disease development. Such information may lead to precise diagnostic tests for heart disease and other chronic illnesses.
Contact information:

Suzanne Cheng
Department of Human Genetics
Roche Molecular Systems, Inc.
Almeda, CA 94501
Fax: (510) 522-1285

Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory

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