High heritability of ascending aortic diameter and trans-ancestry prediction of thoracic aortic disease

Nat Genet. 2022 Jun;54(6):772-782. doi: 10.1038/s41588-022-01070-7. Epub 2022 May 30.


Enlargement of the aorta is an important risk factor for aortic aneurysm and dissection, a leading cause of morbidity in the developed world. Here we performed automated extraction of ascending aortic diameter from cardiac magnetic resonance images of 36,021 individuals from the UK Biobank, followed by genome-wide association. We identified lead variants across 41 loci, including genes related to cardiovascular development (HAND2, TBX20) and Mendelian forms of thoracic aortic disease (ELN, FBN1). A polygenic score significantly predicted prevalent risk of thoracic aortic aneurysm and the need for surgical intervention for patients with thoracic aneurysm across multiple ancestries within the UK Biobank, FinnGen, the Penn Medicine Biobank and the Million Veterans Program (MVP). Additionally, we highlight the primary causal role of blood pressure in reducing aortic dilation using Mendelian randomization. Overall, our findings provide a roadmap for using genetic determinants of human anatomy to understand cardiovascular development while improving prediction of diseases of the thoracic aorta.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aorta / pathology
  • Aortic Aneurysm* / pathology
  • Aortic Aneurysm, Thoracic* / genetics
  • Aortic Dissection* / genetics
  • Aortic Dissection* / pathology
  • Aortic Dissection* / surgery
  • Genome-Wide Association Study
  • Humans