Can the genetic code reveal why some people develop rheumatic heart disease?
Genetic susceptibility to rheumatic heart disease
Thomas Parks (lead researcher)
Oxford, University of
Start date: 01 October 2014 (Duration 2 years)
Rheumatic fever is a condition that is common in the developing world. It is caused by infection with a bacterium called group A streptococcus. Sometimes children and young adults who have had rheumatic fever go on to develop rheumatic heart disease, where the body’s immune system mistakes healthy tissue for the bacteria and causes parts of the body to become inflamed. Rheumatic heart disease develops when this inflammation attacks and damages the valves in the heart, which become leaky or abnormally stiff. Although rheumatic heart disease is caused by an infection, research has shown that some families are more likely to develop the condition than others –a genetic component to developing the disease.
The BHF has awarded a grant to Dr Thomas Parks and colleagues at the University of Oxford to study the genetics of rheumatic heart disease. They will study DNA, our genetic code that we inherit from our parents. The team will search for differences in the DNA of patients and healthy adults in over 3800 samples they have collected from Fiji and New Caledonia in the Pacific, where rheumatic heart disease is common. This research will help us understand why some people develop rheumatic heart disease while others do not. It may reveal which parts of the genetic code are important for disease to develop, and therefore which areas scientists should focus their efforts on when designing new drugs or vaccines.
||01 October 2014
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