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DNA

New link found between alcohol, genes and heart failure

New research suggests that a faulty gene may interact with alcohol to accelerate heart failure, even if the person drinks only moderate amounts of alcohol.

The research, funded by the Health Innovation Challenge Fund, investigated faulty versions of a gene called titin, which are carried by one in 100 people or 600,000 people in the UK.

Titin is crucial for maintaining the elasticity of the heart muscle, and faulty versions are linked to a type of heart failure called dilated cardiomyopathy.

The team analysed 141 patients with a type of heart failure called alcoholic cardiomyopathy. This condition is triggered by drinking more than 70 units a week (roughly seven bottles of wine) for five years or more. In severe cases the condition can be fatal, or leave patients requiring a heart transplant.

The team found that the faulty titin gene may also play a role in the condition. In the study 13.5 per cent were found to carry the mutation - much higher than the proportion of people who carry them in the general population.

These results, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, suggest this condition is not simply the result of alcohol poisoning, but arises from a genetic predisposition, and that other family members may be at risk too.

Study author Dr James Ware, from the National Heart and Lung Institute at Imperial, said: “Our research strongly suggests alcohol and genetics are interacting – and genetic predisposition and alcohol consumption can act together to lead to heart failure. At the moment this condition is assumed to be simply due to too much alcohol. But this research suggests these patients should also be checked for a genetic cause – by asking about a family history and considering testing for a faulty titin gene, as well as other genes linked to heart failure.”

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