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Genetics of atherosclerosis.

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Department of 1Human Genetics, University of California, Los Angeles, California 90095, USA.


Atherosclerosis, the primary cause of coronary artery disease (CAD) and stroke, is a disorder with multiple genetic and environmental contributions. Genetic-epidemiologic studies have identified a surprisingly long list of genetic and nongenetic risk factors for CAD. However, such studies indicate that family history is the most significant independent risk factor (15, 52, 77). Many Mendelian disorders associated with atherosclerosis, such as familial hypercholesterolemia (FH), have been characterized, but they explain only a small percentage of disease susceptibility (although a substantial fraction of early CAD). Most cases of myocardial infarction (MI) and stroke result from the interactions of multiple genetic and environmental factors, none of which can cause disease by itself. Successful discovery of these genetic factors will require using complementary approaches with animal models, large-scale human genetic studies, and functional experiments. This review emphasizes the common, complex forms of CAD.

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