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Technology Gives Glimpse Into Genetics of Heart Attacks, Cancer


Although cardiac hypertrophy is considered a way for the heart to adapt to illness -- it also puts the heart at greatly increased risk for failure.

Lowe and colleagues got a glimpse of the changes that the heart undergoes, both during fetal development and following a heart attack, by using the microarray technology to take a snapshot of hundreds or thousands of genes at the same time.

They found that 12 genes that are known to be associated with heart development were active in the sample of growing heart tissue. But they also found 10 unidentified sections of DNA that could be new genes and identified 36 genes that had not previously been associated with heart development.

In hearts from animals that had suffered heart attacks, genes associated with stress on the heart and wound healing appeared to be more active than in normal heart tissue, and "14 genes not previously associated with [heart attacks] were identified," Lowe and colleagues write.

Although the genetic findings were inconclusive, Lowe tells WebMD that the study proved the benefit of using microarray technology to monitor how various types of heart tissues respond to physical stress.

"One of the points we wanted to try to understand for ourselves was the degree to which we would be able to use the microarrays in studying tissue samples," Lowe tells WebMD. "It seems like a simple question, but anybody who has worked with animals will know the intrinsic variability of the systems, and we needed to know those parameters for ourselves."

Vital Information

  • Scientists have developed a new technology that can scan the activity of 30,000 genes simultaneously.
  • This microarray technology can help determine how different types of heart tissue responds to physical stress and can scan the thousands of genes in a cancer cell.
  • Researchers hope this technology will one day lead to better understanding and treatment of heart conditions and cancer.
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