Protection At What Cost?

Researchers find gene that protects African-Americans against heart disease; population still at high risk

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

(RxWiki News) According to new research from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, about a quarter of African-Americans have a gene that helps protect them against heart disease.

African-Americans with just one copy of the gene (known as CDKN2B) have about five times lower risk of heart-disease symptoms, including heart attacks, clogged arteries and other symptoms.

Certain mutations of the gene can actually increase risk of vascular events, though. In Swedish patients with high blood pressure, the mutation was shown to increase stroke risk.

A team of researchers sequenced the genes of 548 healthy African-American brothers or sisters of people with confirmed heart disease and followed the patients for 17 years. They found about 25 percent of the volunteers had the protective version of the gene (featuring a certain type of mutation called a single nucleotide polymorphism, or SNP) and 6 percent had two copies.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) began targeting African-Americans with a heart drug known as BiDil after it was shown to be more effective in blacks than other races in 2005.

In spite this and in spite of being at a higher risk of heart disease than Caucasians, African-Americans are less likely than whites to be prescribed heart drugs or receive bypass surgery.

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Review Date: 
January 31, 2011
Last Updated:
January 31, 2011