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Times of India
19 January 2009
New Delhi, India

Every 25th Indian faces cardiac risk
Mutant Gene Raises Stroke Chances By 7 Times
Every 25th Indian carries a mutant gene that makes him vulnerable to an “almost guaranteed’’ risk of a sudden cardiac arrest, results of a study published on Sunday suggest. Around six crore people around the globe carry the gene of which more than four crore are Indians, researchers said.

“We can confidently say that 4% of the Indian population is at risk of a sudden cardiac arrest as they carry this mutant gene,’’ Kumarasamy Thangaraj of Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), Hyderabad, who led the study, said. The findings of the study were published in the latest edition of the journal ‘Nature Genetics’.

{jumi usermod/ads/ads.php}{/jumi} India has a burgeoning population of cardiac patients and, according to a previous study, by 2010 the country will constitute 60% of heart patients across the globe. The new findings shed light on the genetic pre-disposition that increases the risk of heart disease in Indians. People having this mutation have 25 letters of genetic code deleted from a gene MYBPC3, which is responsible for the production of heart muscle protein. The altered form produces an abnormal protein that disturbs the structure of the heart muscle fibre. “Those having the altered form of gene have a seven-fold higher chance of a cardiac arrest than normal people. Besides, these people have no warning about the danger which makes it worse,’’ Thangaraj said.

“Young people degrade the altered protein, hence they don’t generally show symptoms. But with age, the degradation becomes less effective, making a mutant protein buildup and develop symptoms,’’ said Chris Tyler-Smith, a researcher from Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, UK, in an email interview. “From our data, around 90% of people carrying this form of gene, who live to old age, will develop heart disease symptoms,’’ Chris said.

The mutation was discovered five years ago in two Indian families but its significance became apparent only after the study of 1,500 people from different parts of country. The study involving 25 scientists from four countries shows the gene has a slightly higher prevalence among the South Indians than their northern counterparts, but affects all groups and religions alike, he added.

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