The memory of a heart attack can be stored in genes through chemical modifications of DNA, scientists have found, suggesting that both environmental and heredity factors influence risk of cardiovascular disease. Researches at Uppsala University in Sweden suggest that both heredity and environmental factors influence our risk of cardiovascular disease.
"We inherit our genes from our parents at birth. During our lifetime, chemical modifications of DNA that turn off or on our genes, so-called epigenetic changes, occur. These changes can lead to the development of various diseases," researchers said. They examined epigenetic changes in people who have had a previous heart attack.
"During a heart attack the body signals by activating certain genes," said lead author Asa Johansson, from Uppsala University. "This mechanism protects the tissue during the acute phase of the disease, and restores the body after the heart attack. It is therefore likely that it also occurs epigenetic changes associated a heart attack," said Johansson.
The results of the study showed that there are many epigenetic changes in individuals who had experienced a heart attack. Several of these changes are in genes that are linked to cardiovascular disease. However it was not possible to determine whether these differences had contributed to the development of the disease, or if they live on as a memory of gene activation associated with the heart attack.
"We hope that our new results should contribute to increasing the knowledge of the importance of epigenetic in the clinical picture of a heart attack, which in the long run could lead to better drugs and treatments," added Johansson. The results have been published in the journal Human Molecular Genetics.