A study by a global consortium of physician-scientists has identified a genetic variation that may predispose people to double the risk of having a sudden cardiac arrest, a disorder that gives little warning and is fetal in about 95% of cases. Although previous, smaller studies have identified some genes with a potential association with sudden cardiac arrest this is the first one large enough to enable scientists to apply results to the general population.
"We are at the beginning of unraveling the mystery of what causes sudden cardiac arrest and how to prevent it," pledges senior author Sumeet S. Chugh, associate director of the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute, Los Angeles, Calif. "If we wait until someone has a sudden cardiac arrest, it is usually too late for treatment. That is why knowing who is genetically susceptible is so important."
Unlike heart attacks (myocardial infarction), which typically are caused by clogged coronary arteries reducing blood flow to the heart muscle, sudden cardiac arrest is the result of defective electrical impulses. Patients may have little or no warning, and the disorder usually causes nearly instantaneous death. Every year, almost 300,000 people in the U.S. and up to 5,000,000 worldwide die from it.
Despite years of significant advances in emergency medicine and resuscitation, just five percent of those who suffer sudden...