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An unlikely suspect
Variants of the thrombospondin gene increase risk of premature heart attack
  
By Bijal P. Trivedi

A study of families with cases of premature heart disease revealed that three variations, or polymorphisms, in the thrombospondin gene were associated with a significantly increased risk of heart attack before age 50.

Scientists scanned more than 50 genes involved in blood clotting, cholesterol production, and blood vessel formation in 1366 patients from 420 families with two or more siblings having premature heart disease. They compared them to the same genes from healthy people without a history of the disease. Of all the results, those involving the thrombospondin gene were the most striking.

The TSP-1 form of thrombospondin increases the risk of premature heart attack by 10-fold. TSP-2 and TSP-4 increase risk by three and two fold respectively, according to Eric Topol, of the Cleveland Clinic Foundation in Ohio, who presented the study at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2000 this week in New Orleans.

"These preliminary findings have major implications for early screening to prevent coronary disease and for developing new potential drug strategies," Topol was quoted as saying. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the US.

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