An international research team co-led by the University of Michigan School of Public Health has identified 95 regions of the human genome where genetic variants are associated with blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels, which are major indicators of heart disease risk.
Of the total, 59 variants were associated with cholesterol and triglyceride lipid levels for the first time, said Tanya Teslovich, a postdoctoral research fellow at the U-M School of Public Health and first author on the study.
Teslovich said identifying the 59 new variants on the genome is "probably the most exciting part of the study."
Researchers look at four lipid traits: total cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol, (the so-called bad cholesterol), HDL-cholesterol (good cholesterol), and triglycerides. A combination of genetics and environment plays a role in determining those levels in our blood.
Teslovich combined results from 46 different studies resulting in data representative of more than 100,000 people, said Michael Boehnke, SPH professor of biostatistics and co-senior study author.
Two of the regions identified in the study contain known drug targets, in addition to many loci not previously associated with lipid metabolism, he said. Many of the common variants discovered by the study also are in or near genes known to have mutations associated with more extreme shifts, in cholesterol or triglycerides levels.
Further, many of the variants identified in these European-origin populations were shown to influence lipid traits across East Asian, South Asian, and African American populations as well.
The study has been published in the journal Nature.