Researchers spanning three continents have pointed the finger at nine flawed genes after carrying out the largest-ever trawl through human DNA to search for inherited risks of a heart attack.
Variants of genes located in chromosomes 2, 3, 6, 12 and 21 boost the risk of myocardial infarction, according to five studies published online on Sunday in the latest issue of the journal Nature Genetics.
Identifying the culprits could open up new drug targets for people at risk, targeting inflammation by the immune system, adhesion between cells and other molecular mechanisms.
The variants are single changes in the code between a healthy gene and a flawed one.
These tiny differences can have big repercussions on the protein-making machinery that maintains the cardiovascular system.
The research entailed sifting through the genome of tens of thousands of people with a history of heart disease in order to net likely genetic candidates.
The results were then matched against the genomes of "controls", or otherwise healthy people, to get confirmation.