A rare and previously unknown variation in some people's genes substantially reduces heart attack risk and cholesterol levels, potentially paving the way to new drugs, Icelandic researchers said on Wednesday.
The missing 12 letters from a gene on chromosome 17 were spotted in a study of genomes and clinical data across the population of Iceland. It was confirmed in data from some 300,000 people in other countries.
The findings by researchers at deCODE genetics, a subsidiary of Amgen, were published online by the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM).
Interestingly, the genetic variation offers more heart protection than can easily be accounted for by the reduction in cholesterol alone, implying that other processes, such as reduced inflammation, could well be involved.