Medically Reviewed by Nathan J.S. Almeida, MD
Ever wonder why some people can eat anything and never gain weight or have heart problems. An overactive thyroid often takes the blame or praise, as it may be. New research indicates that it may actually be a mutant gene.
“The Journal of the American College of Cardiology reported on the discovery of a gene mutation that can lower the risk of obesity and heart disease,” says McLeod Cardiologist Dr. Nathan Almeida. “This mutation can also help reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes by slowing the body’s metabolism of sugar.”
GENES & DNA
Only about six percent of the population has this particular genetic variation. However, discovering this apparent link between certain heart-related diseases and what we eat opens a path for developing drugs that could mimic this change for the rest of us. Although this research only analyzed 8,500 people, two other studies looked at hundreds of thousands of people.
Examining the DNA of 250,000 people, researchers found a link between risk factors for Type 2 diabetes and Coronary Heart Disease, creating the possibility of lowering the threat of both diseases with one medication. Another study of 300,000 military veterans revealed three genes – one with a link to Type 2 diabetes, one to coronary heart disease and one to increased risk of the potentially fatal abdominal aortic aneurysm.
STEM CELLS FOR HEART REPAIR – NOT QUITE YET
Research in the early 2000s seemed to point to the possibility of using stem cells to regrow tissue in failing hearts. (Stem cells taken from a patient’s bone marrow or heart tissue have the potential to develop into many different cell types in the body.) However, much of that early research has been disproven and the work withdrawn.
In fact, some newer research warns that not only will these cells NOT create new heart tissues but they may develop inflammation that can further damage the heart. Research continues and someday there may be answer.
ACTION YOU CAN TAKE
Until then, there is no cure for heart failure but it can be managed through medication and lifestyle changes. Watch for symptoms of congestive heart failure. If you experience these signs, see a cardiologist.
Sources include: McLeod Health, Journal of the American College of Cardiology, American Heart Association, Nature Genetics