In the United States alone, heart disease is the number one cause of death in both men and women. Although both a poor diet and not enough exercise are large contributing components to heart disease, scientists have begun to discover that genetics also plays a large role in decreasing a person’s chance of having a heart attack. Specifically, people who have a mutation on a gene called ANGPTL4 run a 50% lower risk of having a heart attack. They also had lower levels of triglycerides in the blood.
In the study conducted, researchers analyzed 13,000 genes from 200,000 patients, looking for correlations between ANGPTL4 mutations and coronary artery disease (CAD). Patients who had the mutation had not only a much lower incidence of heart attacks, but also had lower levels of triglycerides. It is relevant to note that ANGPTL4 inhibits the lipoprotein lipase (LPL) enzyme, which breaks down triglycerides. This lead the researchers to hypothesize that if ANGPTL4 is not working, then the LPL enzyme is not inhibited, thus lowering the triglycerides found in the blood. Over time this leads to less fat deposits in the arteries, significantly reducing a person’s heart disease risk.
These findings lead to two important conclusions that are very valuable to clinical medical practice. First is, it highlights the importance of healthcare professionals emphasizing lowering triglycerides, and not just cholesterol. Secondly, the discovery of this ANGPTL4 mutation could lead to a new target for medications. It also makes me want to run out and get my blood tested! It is really interesting overall what a big contribution genetic research can/is contributing to modern medicine. Hopefully in a decade or two, targeted medicines will be available for almost all the conditions that affect humans. However, the topic of is they will be affordable or not is a whole other discussion (#FeelTheBern!)