Background: A positive family history for myocardial infarction (MI) is known to be a major cardiovascular risk factor. The current European guidelines therefore recommend intensified primary prevention for the siblings and children of persons who have had an MI. Although the genes underlying the heritable component of MI were largely unknown previously, the development of new molecular genetic methods, and particularly the advent of genome-wide association (GWA) studies, has led to the discovery of numerous genetic variants that are associated with an elevated risk of MI.
Methods: In this article, we review GWA studies on MI and coronary heart disease (CHD) that were retrieved by a selective literature search from 2007 onward. We comment on their implications for clinical practice.
Results: In the last three years, GWA studies have enabled the identification of many alleles that confer a higher risk of MI. A total of eleven chromosomal regions have been replicated and associated with the disease, and their functional significance has been studied. Furthermore, it has been shown that some of the manifestations of CHD, e.g., calcification, ectasia and main-stem stenosis, are more strongly inherited than others.
Conclusion: The results of recent GWA studies for MI and CHD will aid in individual risk prediction for MI by molecular biological means. They will also permit the development of new approaches to research on the pathophysiology of myocardial infarction.