If your ancestors had heart attacks, this information will be saved in your genes, says a new study published in in the journal Human Molecular Genetics.
Conducted by researchers from Uppsala University, the study shows that the memory of a heart attack is stored as genetic information. This occurs as a result of epigenetic changes which are post-birth modifications on gene expression. Our genes come from our parents, but the DNA can be chemically changed after birth, occurrences that are often linked with diseases. The researchers of the new paper focused on people who have had a heart attack in the past and the associated epigenetic changes.
Lead author, Åsa Johansson, explains that the body activates specific genes during a heart attack with the aim of protecting cells – this is meant to restore the body in the aftermath of the attack. From this, the team deduced that there might be epigenetic changes that are linked with a heart attack – their hypothesis was confirmed after they examined data from individuals who had heart attacks before.
Furthermore, many of these changes were found to be linked with cardiovascular disease. Could they be leading to the development to the disease? This might be a possibility, but the researchers did not find any conclusive result hinting at this. They were unable to determine whether this was actually true of if the changes remain as a memory of gene activation linked with the heart attack.
‘We hope that our new results should contribute to increasing the knowledge of the importance of epigenetic in the clinical picture of a heart attack, which in the long run could lead to better drugs and treatments’, says Åsa Johansson.