A recent study of identical twins with HCM found significant variation in the expression of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, even between twins carrying the same HCM-causing genetic mutation.
This paper concludes that epigenetics (things which influence expression of DNA like behavioral and environmental factors) greatly influence the expression of HCM genetic mutations.
The researchers studied 11 pairs of twins with HCM. 9 of the twin pairs had known HCM sarcomere mutations while 2 of the pairs had HCM of unknown cause. The siblings were followed for a time frame of between 5 to 14 years.
Researchers compared left ventricular wall thickness, left atrial size and left ventricular ejection fraction. Differences were found in the left ventricular wall thickness of all 11 pairs of twins, while left atrial size was similar in 3 of the 9 twin pairs who carried HCM mutations. Left ventricular ejection fraction was different in 4 of 7 twin pairs.
The researchers theorize that similarities in left atrial size may be due to impaired ventricular relaxation directly tied to sarcomere dysfunction. In contrast, environmental factors yield more influence over ventricular function.
HCM epigenetics is a field ripe for research. As HCM patients, we hope that it will yield actionable data in the near future.
A recent discovery by British researchers sheds light on how a type of common genetic mutation – a so called “common variant” – influences the expression of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy caused by mutation(s) in the cardiac sarcomere.
How do Common Variants Impact Sarcomere Mutations?
This research, funded by the British Heart Foundation and spearheaded by Dr. Hugh Watkins of the University of Oxford, explains why some individuals with a particular sarcomere mutation develop a severe case of HCM, while their family members with the same mutation may develop only mild HCM symptoms or show no signs of the disease at all. It also may explain why people who lack sarcomere mutations develop the disease.
The researchers compared the DNA of 2,780 people with HCM and 47,486 people without HCM and found that common variants acting in concert with rare sarcomere mutations determine whether a person will develop HCM.
Common Variant HCM Not Hereditable
In addition, the researchers found that HCM attributable to common variants alone is unlikely to be passed on to future generations. This is good news for the children of HCM patients caused by common variants.
Watch your Blood Pressure
Lastly, this paper found that high diastolic blood pressure was associated with the development of HCM caused by common variants. Hence, keeping blood pressure under control is something that patients can do to minimize their risk of developing HCM in the future.
A recent paper published in the journal Circulation looked at the clinical course of approximately 4,600 HCM patients over the course of more than 24,000 clinical years, which the paper describes as the largest comprehensive cohort of HCM patients ever studied.
This study examined patients from eight high volume HCM centers which aggregated their institutional data into a database known as the Sarcomere Human Cardiomyopathy Registry (or the acronym the “SHaRe” for short). The results of the study showed that, in general, HCM patients are at substantially elevated risk for atrial fibrillation and heart failure, and have significantly higher mortality rates than that of the general U.S. population.
Continue reading “HCM Researchers Put their Heads Together to Improve Lives of HCM Patients” →
A recent paper by researchers in Australia, published this week in Circulation: Cardiovascular Genetics, found more than one rare HCM gene in 4% of patients in a 758 patient sample group.
The researchers found that those patients with multiple rare HCM genes tended to present with HCM at a younger age, were more likely to experience cardiac arrest or death from other causes, and were more likely to require a heart transplant.
In general, few patients have multiples of mutations commonly associated with HCM. See this Canadian study from April of this year which found that multiple mutations were less prevalent and harmful than previously thought.
According to researchers at the University of Michigan, family members of HCM patients who have tested negative for genes associated with HCM and without a family history of HCM will usually be found to be free of HCM during routine family screening. And, in accordance a recent Australian study, relatives of these patients may be able to benefit from less rigorous screening protocols.
Patients with a known sarcomere mutation appear to have a different clinical profile, according to the researchers: they have more hypertrophy; they are younger when diagnosed; they have a higher risk for adverse events; and they are more likely to have a family history for the condition.
In contrast, when the initial diagnosis is made in a patient who is 50 or older with no known genetic mutations, a negative family history, and sigmoidal septal pattern hypertrophy, reduced family screenings may be appropriate and less burdensome. In addition, hypertension, large family size with no other affected family members, less severe hypertrophy, and lack of life-threatening complications related to HCM may provide additional comfort to families of newly diagnosed HCM patients.
The reduced protocol would consist of a single screening of adult family members, with the caveat that if and when any additional family additional member is found to have HCM, a more traditional screening protocol be instituted.
(Note that standard screening guidelines recommend screening of all first-degree family members of patients beginning with adolescence, repeated annually through the end of adolescent growth, and repeated every 3 – 5 years for life.)
When a patient is the only person in the family ever diagnosed with HCM, s/he will often wonder whether their disease is, in fact, genetic. S/he will also wonder whether it will be necessary for all first degree relatives to undergo serial screenings for the rest of their lives.
In answer to this concern, Australian researchers have recently identified a subset of HCM patients who appear to have a non-familial form of the disease and whose relatives may be candidates for less stringent screening protocols.
The study, just published in Circulation: Cardiovascular Genetics by Dr. Jodie Ingles and Dr. Chris Semsarian, found that this group, having neither genetic mutation associated with HCM nor family history of HCM, comprises approximately 40% of all HCM patients. Non-familial HCM patients are more likely to be older when diagnosed, and they often present with non-asymmetric hypertrophy and hypertension. And, these HCM patients appear to have a more favorable clinical course, with a better track record of survival from major cardiovascular events.
The researchers point out that by sorting patients into more distinct subgroups, doctors will be able to provide more personalized and evidence-based care to patients and their families. In particular, their recommendation is that first-degree relatives of non-familial HCM patients need only be screened one or more times in adulthood. Less frequent follow up surveillance is also suggested, in contrast with the more intensive screening guidelines recommended for family members of patients with familial HCM.