C-reactive protein (CRP), a target for studies of treatment for coronary heart disease, is not in fact directly involved in causing it, as once thought, said the research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
"Some researchers thought C-reactive protein would be a good molecule to target, as raised levels of this protein in the blood are associated with increased risk of coronary heart disease," noted lead author Paul Elliott, a professor at Imperial College, London.
"However our research suggests that the association may not be causal, so attempts to target this protein to reduce the risk of the disease are unlikely to be fruitful."
The study however did discover new genetic variations associated with coronary heart disease, Elliott added. "If confirmed in other studies, these might give clues to identify new targets to treat the disease," he said.
Research teams involving Imperial College scientists and 12 other universities and institutes in Europe and North America examined a total of 28,112 people with the disease and 100,823 people without the disease.
They reached their conclusion by comparing the genetic variations that play a role in the level of CRP with the prevalence of coronary heart disease in those that they studied.
Heart disease is the number one killer in the United States, claiming 864,480 lives in 2005, according to the American Heart Association.