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Getting a measure of heart disease.

INDIA has a growing burden of heart disease-- part of which scientists attribute to genetic predisposition of Indians to it. But it is largely a result of our changing diets and lifestyles.

Now scientists have found a strange connection -- our environment can alter our genes and this, in turn, lead to heart disease.

Researchers from Cambridge have found that specific regions of the DNA in tissues of hearts from heart disease patients contained certain anomalies known as DNA methylation, whereas those from healthy hearts did not. The DNA that makes up our genes comprises four " bases" or nucleotides-- cytosine, guanine, adenine and thymine. DNA methylation is the addition of a methyl group ( CH3) to cytosine.

When bound to cytosine, the methyl group sticks out. This means it looks different and is recognised differently by proteins.

As a result, methylation alters how genes are turned on and off. It is already known to play a key part in development of most cancers, and its role in other complex diseases such as schizophrenia and diabetes is being investigated.

Now it is being linked to heart disease as well.

DNA methylation leaves ' marks' on the genome, and there is already good evidence that these marks are strongly influenced by environment and diet, says lead author Dr Roger Foo of the University of Cambridge.

The findings - published in journal PLoS ONE -- deepen present understanding of genetic changes that can lead to heart disease, and how these can be caused by diet.

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Publication:Mail Today (New Delhi, India)
Date:Jan 14, 2010
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