Amish gene trait may inspire heart protection

By Will Dunham

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A rare genetic abnormality found in people in an insular Amish community protects them from heart disease, a discovery that could lead to new drugs to prevent heart ailments, U.S. researchers said on Thursday.

About 5 percent of Old Order Amish people in Pennsylvania’s Lancaster County have only one working copy rather than the normal two of a gene that makes a protein that slows the breakdown of triglycerides, a type of fat that circulates in the blood, the researchers wrote in the journal Science.

“People who have the mutation all have low triglycerides,” said Toni Pollin of the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore, who led the study.

“This gives us clues that ultimately could develop future treatments.”

Triglycerides naturally disappear more quickly in these people than in people without this gene mutation.

High triglyceride levels, often due to a high-fat diet, can contribute to hardening and narrowing of the arteries, raising the risk of heart attack, heart disease and stroke.

New drugs might target this gene, called APOC3, to decrease the amount of the protein it produces, Pollin said in an interview.

Pollin and colleagues looked at the genes of about 800 Amish people, finding that about one in 20 had the mutation, and they also had lower triglycerides and less risk of cardiovascular disease.

They also had high levels of HDL-cholesterol, the so-called good cholesterol, and low levels of LDL-cholesterol, the so-called bad cholesterol.

Having only one working copy of APOC3 left people with half the normal level of the protein the gene makes.

“The Old Order Amish are ideal for genetic research because they are a genetically homogenous people who trace their ancestry back 14 generations to a small group that came to Pennsylvania from Europe in the mid-1700s,” Dr. Alan Shuldiner, one of the researchers, said in a statement.

Since then, the devoutly Christian Amish have largely kept to themselves in close-knit farming communities, typically marrying other Amish people. Amish communities also are found in Ohio, Indiana and elsewhere.

The researchers believe this genetic mutation was introduced into the Lancaster Amish population by a person born in the mid-1700s, and the trait seems to be very rare or completely absent in the general population.

(Editing by Maggie Fox)


Related Posts:

By Will Dunham WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A gene that affects how the kidneys process salt may help determine a person’s risk of high blood pressure, a discovery that could lead to better ways to treat the condition, researchers said on Monday. People with a common variant of the gene STK39 tend to have higher blood pressure levels

Full Post: Key gene linked to high blood pressure identified

By Will Dunham WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A certain gene abnormality raises the chance of relapse for children with the most common form of childhood cancer, a discovery that could change the way doctors treat them, U.S. researchers said on Wednesday. Children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, or ALL, who have abnormalities in a gene called IKZF1 are three

Full Post: Study unlocks mystery of child leukemia relapse

By Julie Steenhuysen CHICAGO (Reuters) - For people keeping track of their blood fats, triglycerides may be the new lipid to watch, researchers said on Tuesday. A study earlier this week found that the percentage of U.S. adults with high triglycerides had doubled over the past three decades, likely driven by climbing obesity rates. In another study, the

Full Post: Triglycerides may be blood fat to watch: studies

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Scientists have identified a mutant gene which appears to increase the risk of heart failure in South Asians, putting one percent of the world’s population at risk. In an article published in Nature Genetics, the scientists from India, Britain and the United States said 4 percent of people of South Asian descent

Full Post: Mutant gene puts South Asians at risk of heart disease

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Genes that increase the risk of heart disease in the general population carry an even greater risk of heart trouble in diabetics, U.S. researchers said on Tuesday. The findings may help better identify which diabetics are at risk for heart disease and could lead to new treatments, they said. “Coronary artery disease is one

Full Post: Genes that raise heart risks amplified in diabetics

Site Navigation

Most Read