Public Release: 

Marker On TPA Gene Confers 2-Fold Heart Attack Risk, Dutch Scientists Find

American Heart Association

NR 97-4558 (Circ/Jun2brf)*

DALLAS, June 17 - A new gene marker was found twice as often among heart attack patients than healthy people in a new study appearing in today's American Heart Association journal Circulation.

The study confirms that there is a "gene link" for heart attack, says Diederick E. Grobbee, M.D., Ph.D., and colleagues from the Netherlands Institute for Health Sciences, the Netherlands.

"This is the first firm evidence for a gene for heart attack," he says.

Genetic studies were performed on 121 heart attack patients and 250 healthy individuals. Special probes pinpointed a particular sequence of DNA, called the Alu repeat insertion, on the gene for tissue plasminogen activator (TPA). TPA is an enzyme that breaks up blood clots and is the basis for the commonly used "clot-buster" drug also called TPA. Scientists have suspected that individuals who get heart attacks may be more likely to have problems in their first-line defense -- the innate ability to dissolve roaming clots.

Compared to individuals without the marker those with both copies of the gene (homozygous) had a two-fold increased risk.

Grobbee calls the Alu gene a "marker" because scientists don't know whether the particular gene defect is related to heart attack risk. However, the Alu may be "closely linked to a mutation" and thus point the way to a culprit TPA gene.

Media Advisory: Dr. Grobbee can be reached at 31-30-253-9015.

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