Features June 2009 Issue

Genetic Tests Become Available for Some Cardiovascular Diseases

Screening may help determine a family memberís heart risk, but counseling is important to help patients make good decisions.

Genes play a role in several forms of heart disease and several diseases that impact the heart and vascular system. In most cases, the faulty gene is inherited from a single affected parent. Today, Cleveland Clinic and other large medical centers offer genetic screening and counseling to patients and their family members who may be at risk. "Identification of the underlying genetic causes of heart diseases has been the primary focus of research studies," says W.H. Wilson Tang, MD, a Cleveland Clinic cardiologist with joint appointments in genomics and cell biology. "However, the real power of genetic testing lies in its potential ability to identify patients before the disease actually appears, and to study the impact of interventions in patients with specific gene variants. As a result, some diseases or their consequences, such as sudden cardiac death or transplantation, may be avoided or delayed. We are just beginning to learn how to use this new information in daily patient care."

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