Sudden Cardiac Death Linked to Genetics

Genetic variation suggests sudden cardiac risk

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Sudden cardiac arrest is sudden and seemingly random. About 95 percent of those who suffer one will die. New research suggests it may not be quite as random as once believed.

A group of Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute physicians have discovered a genetic variation that may double the risk of sudden cardiac arrest for those that carry the gene.

Smaller studies previously suggested a genetic link, but this study was the first that was large enough to apply the results to the general population. The findings were published in PloS Genetics.

"Talk to your cardiologist about your risk for sudden cardiac arrest."

Senior author Dr. Sumeet S. Chugh, associate director of the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute and a specialist in cardiac electrophysiology, said that knowing who is susceptible is important since by the time someone is afflicted with the illness, it is usually too late. He said the research marks an early start to discovering what causes sudden cardiac arrest and how to prevent it.

Sudden cardiac arrest is the result of defective electrical impulses and affects up to 5 million worldwide. Patients with a known risk for sudden cardiac arrest may receive an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator, which is placed inside the chest to detect faulty electrical impulses and provide a shock to return normal rhythm.

Genetic predictors could help doctors decide which patients could best benefit from the expensive therapy.

Doctors made the finding through a genome-wide association study, which examines the entire set of human genes to detect possible links between genetic variations and specific diseases.

Researchers from the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute and numerous other facilities, schools and organizations including Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine compared the genetic makeup of 4,402 subjects who had experienced sudden cardiac arrest to the DNA of 30,000 control subjects who had no history of the disorder.

Following the comparison, a genetic variation in the BAZ2B gene was found to be associated with a significantly increased risk of sudden cardiac arrest.

The investigators also studied the link between other genetic variations that account for EKG abnormalities and were able to pinpoint several that can also be used for improving the prediction of sudden cardiac arrest in the community.

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Review Date: 
July 6, 2011
Last Updated:
July 9, 2011