Laura Cox, Ph.D., a Texas Biomed geneticist, said that their findings are important as they provide new targets for the development of novel drugs to reduce heart disease risk in humans.
She said that since these genes have previously been associated with cancer, their findings suggest that genetic causes of heart disease may overlap with causes of some types of cancer.
Scientists from Texas Biomedical Research Institute in San Antonio screened their baboon colony of 1,500 animals to find three half-siblings with low levels of low density lipoprotein (LDL), or "bad," cholesterol, and three half-siblings with high levels of LDL.
In the study, the animals were fed a high-cholesterol, high-fat diet for seven weeks then scientists used gene array technology and high throughput sequencers to home in on the genes expressed in the two groups and differentiate those in the low LDL groups from those in the high LDL group.
They discovered that four genes (named TENC1, ERBB3, ACVR1B, and DGKA) influence LDL levels.
Meanwhile, these four genes are part of a signaling pathway important for cell survival and disruption of this pathway promotes some types of cancer.
The new study has been published online in Journal of Lipid Research.