Genetic Analysis for Cardiovascular Disease Could Improve Treatments

New diagnosis methods of patients with cardiovascular disease could lead to more personalized treatment.

The Capital Region of Denmark and the University of Copenhagen are collaborating to launch a study of 120,000 blood samples from cardiovascular patients in an effort to personalize treatment for heart ailments, according to an announcement from the University of Copenhagen.

In analyzing the findings, the researchers plan to move forward with customizing patient treatment, improving the diagnostic evaluation and treatment of cardiovascular diseases, and limiting unnecessary treatment.

The researchers plan to analyze genetic markers in 120,000 blood samples, making it the largest genetic study in Denmark. The study is significant because cardiovascular disease leads to one-quarter of all deaths in Denmark and also poses a significant burden in the United States, according to the announcement.

"There is an urgent need to gather new and more profound knowledge within this area. Today, the typical cardiovascular patient receives life-long treatment. This helps many patients, but they have no prospect of being cured by the treatment,” said researcher Henning Bungaard. “If we're to improve this situation, we need to gain a more detailed understanding of the diseases.”

The researchers will screen the blood samples for genetic markers that correlate with the most common cardiovascular diseases, including high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, cholesterol diseases, arrhythmia, and heart failure.

The data will be analyzed by researchers at Novo Nordisk and the university to determine which mechanisms may contribute to patients’ diseases, according to the announcement.

Due to the high number of patients included, data will be extensive, making the safe and confidential storage of these data crucial, according to the announcement.

"We use advanced methods of data security, such as Secure Private Cloud, to secure data in super computer systems. It's essential that we're confident about how data is managed and processed. Therefore, staff working in the system cannot retrieve data, and all actions in the system will be monitored and stored for more than 15 years," said researcher Søren Brunak.

Researchers hope patients can benefit from the study within the next few years, according to the announcement.

"A realistic future scenario could be that, as a physician, I would be able to base a patient's treatment on a genetic test of variations in the genes that have an impact on the patient's disease,” Bundgaard said. “If I have a cardiovascular patient who is a smoker, my first impulse would be to treat the patient more aggressively than a non-smoker. However, if it's possible to measure that the patient has very few gene mutations in the crucial areas, and has a low cholesterol level, it might not be necessary to treat the patient as aggressively as first assumed."

The research project will launch in the spring 2018, according to the announcement. If successful, the researchers plan on implementing similar gene testing for other types of diseases.