Kenneth K. Wu, M.D., Ph.D.
Institution: University of Texas, Houston Health Science Center
Mutated clotting gene raises risk of heart disease in blacks, but not whites A gene involved in blood clotting is linked to a six-fold increase in risk for heart disease in African Americans, according to the first prospective study to examine the gene as it relates to heart disease. "We have identified a genetic marker for predicting increased heart attack risk in African Americans," said Kenneth K. Wu, M.D., Ph.D. "Our results show that a single amino acid change in the thrombomodulin gene is an independent risk factor for coronary heart disease in blacks. The same small shift in the structure of the thrombomodulin gene was not associated with coronary heart disease (CHD) risk in white individuals. "It is likely that the valine structure is a risk factor for heart attacks in all blacks in the United States. However, I would like to caution that the number of African Americans with CHD in our study group is relatively small when compared to the number of white cases. The group is analyzing a large number of cases to substantiate the results of this study." While the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the NIH supported this study, Dr. Wu said, "This study was absolutely a continuation of work that I began in 1974, to assess hemostatic risk factors of coronary artery disease and cerebrovascular disease. The initial work was supported by my American Heart Association Grant-In-Aid in 1977." The research team plans to study the association of heart attacks and stroke with other genes that affect clotting.