A recent study by several HCM genetics researchers around the globe, led by Australia’s Dr. Jodie Ingles, found that 2/3 of genetic mutations previously reported to patients as HCM causative may actually NOT trigger HCM.
Dr. Ingles and the researchers looked at 33 genes frequently reported to patients as causative for HCM in commercial genetic tests. Surprisingly, of the 33 genes tested, only 8 were found to be definitively associated with HCM, 3 had moderate evidence to support their association with HCM and a whopping 22 or 66% of these genes were found to have limited or no association with HCM.
Mutations Definitive for HCM
Mutations with Moderate Evidence for HCM
These results should raise a red flag for consumers about genetic testing. Results of genetic tests require careful and informed interpretation. For accurate results, HCM patients should undergo genetic testing under the supervision of a genetic counselor with experience in HCM.
Not all genetic counselors are alike!
A recent editorial published in Circulation: Genomic and Precision Medicine suggests that current HCM screening protocols may need adjustment to account for recent findings by a study by researchers in the Netherlands. The Dutch study, published in the same journal, found that of 620 relatives of HCM patients who underwent genetic testing, 43% were found to be genetically positive for HCM, while 30% were diagnosed with HCM at the initial screening. 16% more went on to develop HCM during 7 years of repeated cardiac evaluation.
On the other hand, the 57% of relatives found to be genotype-negative were released from clinical HCM follow-up.
The Australian authors of the editorial, Semsarian and Ingles, note that current screening protocols would have failed to identify the 6 children (15%) who were diagnosed under the age of 12, half of which had a particularly malignant family history.
Additionally, few teens were diagnosed with HCM, which stands in contrast to current opinion that HCM is most likely to develop during adolescence. Indeed, most newly diagnosed family members were older than the age of 36, with 44% being over the age of 50.
Lastly, Semsarian and Ingles note their concern with general utilization of the Dutch practice of releasing a gene negative family member from serial follow up since the impact of all genes which have a role in causing HCM is not yet known while new genes which may cause HCM are still being identified.
Semsarian and Ingles also note that the Dutch patient sample differs from more typical patient populations found in the U.S. and Australia where causes of HCM are more diverse and cannot be easily tied to a specific gene.