About 35% to 40% Indians carry a set of genetic variations that puts them at higher risk of heart disease, finds a new study.

A team of Indian researchers has discovered that carriers of a set of genetic variants in the Chromogranin A gene called CHGA promoter haplotype 2 may be at higher risk for cardiovascular and metabolic disorders. The study is based on analysis of genomic DNA samples from over 750 individuals from Indian population. The research findings have been published in Journal of Biological Chemistry.

Though the CHGA promoter haplotype is present in other ethnic populations, it occurs more frequently in populations of South Asian ancestry.

“It is a protein of neuroendocrine origin and is secreted along with hormones like catecholamines,” said Lakshmi Subramanian, first author of this paper. “Earlier studies had suggested its role in regulation of cardiovascular and metabolic diseases but there was no data about it in South Asian populations.”

Dr Nitish R Mahapatra, professor at the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, who led the study said, “We studied genomic DNA of Indians and discovered a specific set of changes in the CHGA gene sequence called haplotype 2 which contributed to increased CHGA gene expression, and ultimately increased CHGA protein levels in plasma. When the clinical parameters of those in the study were compared, Haplotype 2 carriers displayed higher levels of metabolic and cardiovascular traits like plasma glucose, blood pressure and body mass index.”

However, he said, these results need further validation in animal models as well as large-scale studies in individuals with metabolic syndrome. “We hope these findings would help unravel biological pathways and mechanisms underlying these complex diseases and would help in the development of therapeutic as well as preventive strategies,” said Dr Mahapatra.

“Basic research in cardiovascular biology is in a very nascent stage in India with only a handful of researchers working in this field. This new study significantly contributes towards understanding molecular basis of cardiovascular and metabolic diseases. This is a fast emerging area with tremendous therapeutic and diagnostic potential,” commented Dr Shyamal K Goswami, a professor at School of Life Science at Jawaharlal Nehru University, who is not connected with the study.

The study was led by Dr Nitish R Mahapatra at Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, in a collaborative effort with Dr Ajit S Mullasari at Madras Medical Mission, and Dr Madhu Khullar at the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh.

This article was first published by India Science Wire.