Currently, the doctors evaluate the risk of coronary heart disease by monitoring the blood pressure and cholesterol of a person while also keeping in view other factors like smoking, family history or diabetes. Though this strategy works, the problem is that it is age-dependent and the monitoring can only begin when the person reaches the age of 40 or 50. This leaves a lot of people out, who seem to be healthy otherwise but are struck down by sudden heart attacks. A team of researchers has now created what they call Genomic Risk Score (GRS) which can assess a person’s genetic risk factor for developing coronary heart disease.
They received genomic data from nearly half a million people and analyzed genetic variants of almost 2 million different individuals. The test can be a missing link in diagnostic tools, which allows doctors to combine a Genomic Risk Score (GRS) with other risk factors so they can better target the individuals who are at risk. While evaluating the efficiency, the research found that the Genomic Risk Score – GRS – was better at predicting if the person will develop heart disease than any other single risk factor. Those with a GRS score in the top 20% were four times more likely to develop heart disease as compared to those who have the GRS score in the bottom 20%.
The most significant point raised in the study was that males with a high GRS score were otherwise healthy but had a risk to develop coronary heart diseases with at least two conventional risk factors, high cholesterol, and blood pressure but a low Genomic Risk Score (GRS) score. This declares that GRS can be an incredibly useful addition to the other diagnostic risk factors utilized by clinicians. The significant additional benefit in using this kind of genomic testing into everyday practice is that it can be measured at young ages before other symptoms or risk factors take a hold. The GRS is suggested to cost no more than $50 per test.
Nilesh Samani, the senior author of the paper, said, “At the moment we assess people for their risk of coronary heart disease in their 40’s through NHS health checks. But we know this is imprecise and also that coronary heart disease starts much earlier, several decades before symptoms develop. Therefore if we are going to do true prevention, we need to identify those at increased risk much earlier.” Michael Inouye, the lead author of the study, said that the new combination of big data science and extraordinarily large genomic cohorts has allowed scientists to develop these genetic tests. He admits that genes are just one part of the story which states if the person will develop coronary heart diseases.
The data is now accurate enough for these tests to become a valid additional tool for a doctor. Inouye said, “While genetics is not destiny for coronary heart disease, advances in genomic prediction have brought the long history of heart disease risk screening to a critical juncture, where we may now be able to predict, plan for, and possibly avoid a disease with substantial morbidity and mortality.”