Previous research looking into the genome of hundreds of thousands of individuals has linked more than 100 regions in the genome to the risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
Researchers from the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) and the University of Heidelberg, through the joint Molecular Medicine Partnership Unit (MMPU), are taking these results one step further by pinpointing the exact genes that could have a role in the onset of the disease. Their findings are published today in the Public Library of Science (PLoS) Genetics.
The scientists used a technology called "RNA interference" that can selectively decrease the level of expression of targeted genes. By observing what changes, if any, this decrease causes in cells, researchers can identify the function of the genes and, on a larger scale, objectively test the function of many genes in parallel.
"This is the first wide-scale RNA interference study that follows up on GWAS. It has proven its potential by narrowing down a large list of candidate genes to the few with an important function that we can now focus on in future in-depth studies," explains Rainer Pepperkok at EMBL, who co-led the study with Heiko Runz at the University of Heidelberg.
"In principle, our approach can be applied to any disease that has an observable effect on cells", adds Heiko Runz. "The genes identified here may further our understanding of the mechanisms leading to cardiovascular disease and allow us to improve its prediction and diagnosis".