Genetic variant links stress response with cardiac risk

23 December 2013

A genetic variant in the X-chromosome previously implicated in stress responses has been linked to an increased risk of cardiac death.
The 5HTR2C gene, which encodes a serotonin receptor, is involved in functions including mood and anxiety. A specific variant (the rs6318 Ser23 C allele) has previously shown association with vulnerability to stress and to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD).
New research now suggests that individuals with this variant may have a 38% increased risk of heart attack or death. This increased risk was observed in men with a single copy of the variant and women with two copies (around 10% and 3% of the Caucasian population studied, respectively) over seven years, after suitable adjustment for other factors that could influence risk such as smoking, diabetes, body mass index etc.
The researchers conclude that the 5HTR2C variant is linked with increased risk of cardiovascular disease and related deaths independently of traditional risk factors or markers of cardiovascular disease.

Comment: This new research is an example of the sort of genetic factor that might in the future underpin personalised medicine by adding value to disease risk prediction (in addition to traditional risk factors) or help to tailor preventative advice; for example, in this case to avoid stress as one element in reducing personal risk. It could even dictate behavioural or drug treatments to moderate stress responses and reduce the overall risk of CVD and potentially other diseases such as mood disorders too. 

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