As if on cue, after my meandering about inflammation on Cycling Wed, the famous British journal, Lancet, publishes a possible landmark study on how certain groups of genes found on the Y-chromosome may increase the risk of heart disease in men.
(Think back to biology. The Y- chromosome imparts maleness and is passed from father to son.)
An international team of scientists studied gene information in 3233 British men. They found two major groups of genes (lineages or haplotypes) on the Y-chromosome, and the presence of one of these groups increased the risk of heart disease by 50%. The risk persisted even after controlling for the traditional risk factors, like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, and socioeconomic status.
More interestingly, and on the inflammation theme, these groups of genes affected the regulation of immunity. Specifically, those with the riskier gene lineages had up-regulation of macrophages and down-regulation of adaptive immunity.
This study makes sense. It has been well-known that, on average, men develop heart disease many years before women. Old thinking had this related to hormone differences. Itâ€™s always more complicated than just hormones. And old thinking nearly always needs adjustment. Right?
Itâ€™s inflammation again.
Thereâ€™s a lot more to learn here. Experts call early studies like these â€˜hypothesis-generating.â€™
One avenue of future learning will involve sorting out how these immune mechanisms increase the gene-holders’ susceptibility to heart disease. The other more obvious and immediate clinical impact suggests that maybe we (doctors and patients) should be more mindful of our fatherâ€™s heart history.
Good stuff, science is.