A new study is using genetic testing to identify those at risk of developing heart disease based on the makeup of their DNA. 

If proven effective in clinical trials, this form of genetic testing may be adopted globally to prevent heart disease. Dignity Health—based in Arizona—launched this research study.

Throughout the duration of the study, the cardiology team at Dignity Health Chandler Regional Medical Center, Mercy Gilbert Medical Center and St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center will collect DNA samples from approximately 2,000 men and women who have no known history of heart disease. The DNA samples will then be analyzed at Baylor College of Medicine’s Human Genome Sequencing Center Clinical Lab to determine if the participants have genetic markers known to cause heart disease.  

“This should be the last century of heart disease,” says Robert Roberts, MD, Medical Director of Cardiovascular Genomics for Dignity Health in Arizona. “I am hopeful that through the results of this study we will be able to save even more lives in the future by implementing genetic testing for early prevention of coronary artery disease as routine clinical application.”  

Once the DNA genotyping is completed, the team at Dignity Health hospitals in Arizona will evaluate each participant’s genetic markers to determine their chance of developing heart disease. Other health and lifestyle factors will also be considered when determining the participants’ risk of heart disease. These include hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol, and whether the participant smokes or is physically active, among others. 

The study participants who have expressed a desire to know their results will be notified by letter. Individuals at high genetic risk for heart disease will have the opportunity to meet with cardiology experts and undergo genetic counseling where needed based on their results and appropriate preventive treatment options. 

Those eligible to participate in the study are men and women between the ages 40 and 60. They must also have no known history of heart disease, as the goal of the study is to determine their genetic risk for developing heart disease before it actually develops.