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Fertility link to coronary artery disease

Friday June 23rd, 2017

The genes that increase the risk of coronary artery disease are linked to good fertility, according to the findings of an international study published last night.

Researchers started in Ancient Egypt pointing out that the genes they were studying are very ancient - although coronary artery disease is thought of as an illness of the modern age.

They concluded that people who carry the genes tend to have more children than others.

Researchers from Melbourne, Australia, worked with scientists in Finland and the USA on the project, analysing 56 genetic regions for the disease in 12 populations in Africa, Europe and East Asia.

They published their findings in PloS Genetics.

Researcher Dr Sean Byars, from Melbourne, Australia, said: "Evolution it seems is involved in a trade-off where CAD only begins to appear at around 40 to 50 years of age when the potential beneficial effects of these genes on reproduction will have already occurred. That will tend to compensate for any negative effects these genes also have on CAD later in life.

"This doesn't necessarily mean that women with many children are more likely to develop heart disease, it may simply mean that the disease is a by-product of humans being able to reproduce well."

Fellow researcher Dr Michael Inouye said the findings showed the need for caution in using gene editing techniques.

He said: "It's a bit like a balloon, if you push on one side of it, the air will push out in other places and if you don't know what the balloon looks like then you won't be able to predict where. Our genomes are similarly complex and we need to learn more in order to read them, much less write them."

PloS Genetics 22 June 2017 [abstract]

Tags: Africa | Asia | Australia | Childbirth and Pregnancy | Heart Health | Women's Health & Gynaecology

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