Recent Advances in Molecular Genetics of Cardiovascular Disorders - Implications for Atherosclerosis and Diseases of Cellular Lipid Metabolism


Institute for Clinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine, University of Regensburg, Regensburg, Germany


Two developments in molecular genetics will profoundly influence our understanding and the diagnosis of cardiovascular disorders. First, the identification of genes responsible for monogenic and polygenic traits by analysis of e.g. large pedigrees and affected sib pairs provides invaluable data regarding the role of specific genes in common diseases like arteriosclerosis, hypertension, diabetes, thrombosis/hemostasis and obesity. Besides the insights into the underlying pathophysiology, this knowledge will permit to identify persons at high risk for disease development. These patients can then obtain a targeted intervention. The second development is related to the availability of new analytical tools for molecular biology. New methods such as sequencing by hybridisation (SBH), DNA-array technology or matrix assisted laser desorption/ionisation-time of flight mass spectroscopy (MALDI-TOF) permit sequence analysis of complete genes within hours. Automated PCR-technologies with homogenous amplicon detection formats simplify PCR and permit its use in the routine laboratory setting. Considering cardiovascular diseases there is a number of genes involved in lipid metabolism (apolipoproteins, lipoprotein receptors, lipolytic enzymes), thrombosis/hemostasis (platelet receptors, pro- and anticoagulant proteins, fibrinogen, PAI's), hypertension (angiotensin converting enzyme, angiotensinogen) glucose metabolism (glucose transporters, enzymes) and obesity (hormones, receptors), that are interesting candidates for sophisticated genetic risk assessment. Furthermore, there are also gene candidates involved in processes of early atherogenesis and chronic inflammation such as complement proteins, cell adhesion molecules, and cellular receptors and enzymes. Most of these gene candidates were derived from pathophysiologic knowledge and subsequent epidemiological studies. However, it is foreseeable that in the coming years genes will be identified which were not known so far to be involved in cardiovascular diseases. Genetic studies will be of prime importance in this area, as is exemplified by animal models. In the long term, analysis of these candidate genes before the implementation of therapy will permit a targeted intervention approach towards high risk patients. This will reduce the overall costs of health care without reducing the quality. Pathology & Oncology Research, Vol 4, Nr 2, 152-160, 1998

Key words: cardiovascular disease; risk assessment; atherosclerosis; thrombosis; hemostasis; hypertension; obesity; lipoproteins; molecular genetics

Received: Jan 29, 1998; accepted: Feb 10, 1998
Correspondence: Gerd SCHMITZ, Institute for Clinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine, University of Regensburg, Regensburg D-93042, Germany; Tel: +49 9419446201, Fax: +49 9419446202; E-mail:

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