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Heart Disease Risk Gene May Pass From Dads to Sons

Last Updated: February 08, 2012.

Male-only Y chromosome can raise risk by 50%, study finds.

WEDNESDAY, Feb. 8 (HealthDay News) -- An increased risk for coronary artery disease can be passed genetically from father to son on the male Y chromosome, a new study says.

The Y chromosome, a part of DNA present only in men, appears to play a role in the inheritance of coronary artery disease, according to researchers at the University of Leicester in England and their colleagues.

They analyzed DNA from more than 3,000 biologically unrelated men in the United Kingdom and found that 90 percent had variants of Y chromosomes belonging to one of two major groups -- haplogroup I and haplogroup R1b1b2.

Men with a Y chromosome from haplogroup I have a 50 percent higher risk of coronary artery disease than other men, and that risk is independent of risk factors such as smoking, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, the researchers found. Those men account for up to 20 percent of men in Britain, they said.

They attributed this increased risk to the effect of the haplogroup I Y chromosome on the immune system and inflammation.

"We are very excited about these findings as they put the Y chromosome on the map of genetic susceptibility to coronary artery disease. We wish to further analyze the human Y chromosome to find specific genes and variants that drive this association," principal investigator Dr. Maciej Tomaszewski, a clinical senior lecturer in the department of cardiovascular sciences, said in a university news release.

"The major novelty of these findings is that the human Y chromosome appears to play a role in the cardiovascular system beyond its traditionally perceived determination of male sex," Tomaszewski added.

The study appears online Feb. 8 in The Lancet.

Coronary artery disease is narrowing of the blood vessels that supply blood and oxygen to the heart. This can lead to angina symptoms and heart attacks. It develops in men about a decade earlier than in women.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about coronary artery disease.

SOURCE: University of Leicester, news release, Feb. 8, 2012

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