WASHINGTON — Researchers said Tuesday that they had discovered a gene linked to heart disease, the first such gene to be positively identified.
The gene, named CHD1 for coronary heart disease, affected about 10% of the families with experience of heart disease at a relatively early age in a study at Salt Lake City-based Myriad Genetics.
The gene probably acts with diet and exercise, or lack of exercise, to cause heart disease, said Dennis Ballinger, director of coronary heart disease research at Myriad.
Myriad, working with Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp. and the University of Utah, has patented the gene.
Ballinger said Myriad traced 75 families who had "clusters" of early coronary heart disease and found a mutated amino acid.
Ballinger acknowledged that this gene was not likely to be a major cause of heart disease.
But experts say there is a growing body of evidence that genes are involved in heart disease, which is why some people can smoke and overeat with no ill effects.