In a finding that is likely to sharpen discussion about the merits of race-based medicine, an Icelandic company says it has detected a version of a gene that raises the risk of heart attack in African-Americans by more than 250 percent.
The company, DeCode Genetics, first found the variant gene among Icelanders and then looked for it in three American populations, in Philadelphia, Cleveland and Atlanta.
Among Americans of European ancestry, the variant is quite common, but it causes only a small increase in risk, about 16 percent.
The opposite is true among African-Americans. Only 6 percent of African-Americans have inherited the variant gene, but they are 3.5 times as likely to suffer a heart attack as those who carry the normal version of the gene, a team of DeCode scientists led by Dr. Anna Helgadottir reported in an article released online yesterday by Nature Genetics.
Dr. Kari Stefansson, the company’s chief executive, said he would consult with the Association of Black Cardiologists and others as to whether to test a new heart attack drug specifically in a population of African-Americans.
Interesting times we live in.