Genes Linked to Heart Disease Unexpectedly Found in Genetics Tests – Now What?

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The rising prevalence of genetic testing amongst healthcare professionals, researchers, and customers has led to the invention of incidental genetic abnormalities linked to cardiovascular illnesses. However, the AHA warns that not all recognized single gene variants essentially point out threat components. To handle this difficulty, a brand new scientific assertion offers a framework for healthcare professionals to precisely assess genetic variants, talk outcomes with sufferers and their households, and set up strong multidisciplinary groups for tailor-made care when crucial.

A brand new American Heart Association scientific assertion helps interpret by the way discovered gene variants that could be related to heart problems threat.

  • As healthcare professionals, researchers, and customers more and more use genetic testing, they’re uncovering incidental genetic abnormalities, or variants, which might be related to cardiovascular illnesses.
  • The AHA assertion writing committee cautions that by the way recognized single gene variants might or might not be threat components for illness, so you will need to interpret them accurately and cautiously.
  • The new scientific assertion gives a framework to help healthcare professionals in appropriately assessing particular person genetic variants, speaking findings with sufferers and households, and, when wanted, find out how to create a robust multidisciplinary crew for individualized care.

Increasing use of genetic testing means individuals might uncover they’ve a gene variant related to some kinds of heart problems (CVD). A brand new scientific assertion, revealed at the moment (March 27, 2023) within the American Heart Association (AHA) journal Circulation: Genomic and Precision Medicine, goals to assist people and healthcare professionals perceive what to do when a variant is found.

An American Heart Association scientific assertion is an knowledgeable evaluation of present analysis and will inform future pointers. The new assertion, “Interpreting Incidentally Identified Variants in Genes Associated with Heritable Cardiovascular Disease,” suggests the following steps to find out whether or not a variant really carries a well being threat, offers help to healthcare professionals on find out how to talk with individuals and their households, and suggests the suitable follow-up actions to take care of individuals with variants deemed larger threat for CVD.

Variants related to heart problems threat are sometimes discovered “incidentally” when individuals endure genetic testing for non-cardiac causes, together with screening or prognosis of different illnesses. These sudden genetic variants might also be found with genetic testing by direct-to-consumer DNA testing kits.

Pretest genetic counseling is strongly encouraged to prepare patients for the possibility of incidental findings, how and whether findings will be communicated, and potential implications for themselves and family members.

“The scope and use of genetic testing have expanded greatly in the past decade with the increasing ease and reduced cost of DNA sequencing,” said Andrew P. Landstrom, M.D., Ph.D., FAHA, chair of the scientific statement writing committee and associate professor of pediatrics and cell biology at Duke University School of Medicine in Durham, North Carolina. “Where we would once look for genetic changes in a handful of genes, we can now sequence every gene and, potentially, the whole genome, allowing us to make genetic diagnoses that would have been impossible in the past. However, with increased genetic testing comes more surprises, including finding unexpected variants in genes that might be associated with cardiovascular disease.

“If we interpret these incidental variants incorrectly, it may lead to inappropriate care, either by suggesting patients have a risk of cardiac disease when they do not, or by not providing care to those with increased risk for a serious condition.”

This statement is the first to focus on inherited monogenic, or single-gene, diseases for CVD that can be passed on within families, such as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy or long QT syndrome. There are currently 42 clinically treatable, secondary variant genes that increase the risk of sickness or death from sudden cardiac death, heart failure and other types of cardiovascular disease, according to the American College of Medical Genetics and Genomics. Genetic variants that cause long QT syndrome cause the heart to electrically reset slower than normal after each contraction, which may cause electrical instability of the heart and may lead to fainting, arrhythmias or even sudden death.

Once an incidental genetic variant for CVD is found, the statement authors suggest a framework for interpreting the variant and determining whether it is classified as benign, uncertain, or pathogenic (disease-causing):

  • Healthcare professionals should only relay information to patients about incidentally identified variants if they are among the cardiovascular disease genes already known to be associated with CVD and if patients agreed during pretest genetic counseling to be informed about incidental findings.
  • Incidentally identified variants in genes with an uncertain association with CVD should not be reported.
  • If the discovered variant may increase the risk of CVD, a family history and medical evaluation by an expert health care professional are suggested, preferably a specialist working with or within a multidisciplinary team to address in the disease in question. The goal of this evaluation is to determine whether the individual has evidence of the disease, such as symptoms or relevant test results, or if there are any warning signs in the family history.
  • The genetic variant itself should be re-evaluated periodically by an expert or expert team to ensure whether the CVD link remains accurate. As knowledge about a variant evolves over time, its link to disease may be reclassified.
  • Finally, the medical evaluation and genetic re-evaluation should guide next steps, which may vary from dismissing the incidental variant as not likely to cause CVD to starting medical interventions. This may also involve periodic re-evaluation with appropriate tests (echocardiogram, blood tests, etc.) and possibly screening other family members for the variant.

“The list of incidental variants related to cardiovascular disease continues to evolve. This statement provides a foundation of care that may help people with a CVD-related genetic variant and their health care professionals take the next step in determining the individual and familial risk that a variant may or may not carry,” Landstrom said. “It’s also important to consult with genetics specialists to custom-tailor an evaluation and treatment plan to both the individual and the genetic variant in order to ensure the highest level of care possible.”

Reference: “Interpreting Incidentally Identified Variants in Genes Associated With Heritable Cardiovascular Disease: A Scientific Statement From the American Heart Association” 27 March 2023, Circulation Genomic and Precision Medicine.
DOI: 10.1161/HCG.0000000000000092

Co-authors are Anwar A. Chahal, M.B.Ch.B., Ph.D., M.R.C.P., vice chair; Michael J. Ackerman, M.D., Ph.D.; Sharon Cresci, M.D.; Dianna M. MIlewicz, M.D., Ph.D.; Alanna A. Morris, M.D., M.S., FAHA; Georgia Sarquella-Brugada, M.D., Ph.D.; Christopher Semsarian, M.B.B.S., Ph.D., M.P.H., FAHA; Svati H. Shah, M.D., M.H.S., FAHA; and Amy C. Sturm, M.S., L.C.G.C. Authors’ disclosures are listed in the manuscript.

The Association receives funding primarily from individuals. Foundations and corporations (including pharmaceutical, device manufacturers, and other companies) also make donations and fund specific Association programs and events. The Association has strict policies to prevent these relationships from influencing the science content.