Local News

Duke Researchers Using Genes To Treat Heart Disease

Posted October 29, 2001 2:25 a.m. EST

— Your genes pre-determine a lot about your health, but you are not always stuck with the cards nature dealt you. Researchers at Duke are developing ways to use a person's genes to treat atherosclerosis.

Heart disease runs in Jayson West's family. His father died from a a heart attack in his early 40s. At age 12, Jayson was diagnosed with high cholesterol -- a risk factor for atherosclerosis.

"My entire family on his side of the family has high cholesterol -- my brother, my sister, I have it," he said.

Although his genes are responsible for Jayon's high cholesterol, they may also play a key role in how he manages it. Researchers at

Duke Heart Center

want to use a patient's own genetic makeup to customize treatments.

Heart attack patients often take a five-drug cocktail to help prevent future attacks. In most cases, only a few of the drugs works. Analyzing a patient's genes could help predict which medications work best.

"It would also allow us to recognize those patients at the highest risk for developing side effects with the drug and therefore, prevent these patients from taking drugs that would be harmful," said Dr. Pascal Goldschmidt, chief of cardiology.

Genetic research may also help doctors create individual prevention strategies for their patients.

"We can again consider your gene pool and tell you specifically the type of drug, the type of exercise, the type of diet that would be ultimately suited to prevent the disease from happening," Goldschmidt said.