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Genetic testing for risk of Heart Disease: fact or fiction?

news editor28 February 2012

Professor Steve Humphries (UCL Institute of Human Genetics and Health) delivered an insightful and comprehensive Lunch Hour Lecture, on 23 February, regarding the issues surrounding genetic testing for risk of heart disease.

The lecture was broken down into four manageable chunks: (1) The causes and mechanisms of heart disease (2) What is a gene? (3) What is SNP and how is it useful? (4) How can we use DNA tests?

The causes and mechanisms of heart disease
To begin the lecture Professor Humphries challenged the audience to suggest known risk factors for heart disease. This was effective in engaging the audience and a wide-ranging list was compiled, including: high blood pressure, obesity, smoking, diabetes, age and male gender. The risk factors could be genetic or environmental, but in reality, many are a combination of both.

Professor Humphries then proceeded to explain briefly the mechanisms of heart disease illustrating his points with some supportive graphics.

To summarise, he described the fact that after being born with clean arteries there can be the process of ‘silent build up’, which takes place in early adulthood. Although this can be reversed, in many it will lead on to fatty streaks, atherosclerotic plaques and in the unfortunate; chest pain, plaque rupture and myocardial infarction.

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