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Cardiovascular genetics: are we there yet?
  1. A C Sturm
  1. Correspondence to:
 Mrs A C Sturm
 Division of Human Genetics, Department of Internal Medicine, The Ohio State University, 2050 Kenny Road, 8th Floor Tower, Columbus, OH 43210;

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Cardiovascular genetics

Since 1900, cardiovascular disease has been the number one killer in the United States every year except 1918, the year of the great influenza pandemic. Cardiovascular disease claims more lives each year than the next five leading causes of death combined, which are cancer, chronic lower respiratory diseases, accidents, diabetes mellitus, influenza and pneumonia.1 Cardiovascular disease is also the leading cause of death in Europe, accounting for over 4 million deaths each year and, according to World Health Organization estimates, 16.6 million people around the globe die of cardiovascular disease each year.2 Based on the United States National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Family Heart Study, in its 44 year follow up of participants and a 20 year follow up of their offspring, coronary artery disease accounts for more than half of all cardiovascular events in men and women under the age of 75. Further, coronary artery disease is the single largest killer of men and women in America.1


Coronary artery disease has a complex aetiology, involving multiple genetic and environmental influences and interactions. In a recent review, Lusis estimates the total number of genes involved in cardiovascular disease by considering the risk factors for cardiovascular disease that are under genetic control.3 Some of these risk factors with a significant heritability include cholesterol levels, triglyceride levels, hypertension, obesity, diabetes, and the metabolic syndrome, all of which themselves have many genes involved in their susceptibility.3,4 Therefore, at least hundreds of genes are involved in the susceptibility to cardiovascular disease.3 The identification and characterisation of these genes has been a major undertaking and challenge for researchers. A recent call to arms from Sing et al5 makes recommendations for what needs to be done to cope with these complexities, including developing new statistical …

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  • Conflicts of interest: none declared.