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Genetic Link Between Heart Disease and Gum Disease Found
Posted: Wednesday, June 10, 2009
A genetic link between gum disease (periodontitis) and heart disease has been discovered by German scientists. This could be an important finding for those with diabetes because of the increased risk of heart disease to gum disease The association between periodontitis and coronary heart disease (CHD) has been known for years, but a genetic link between the conditions hadn't been confirmed. The University of Kiel team found that the two diseases share a genetic variant on chromosome 9.
Both coronary heart disease (CHD) and periodontitis are associated with the same risk factors - most importantly smoking, diabetes and obesity.
"We studied a genetic locus on chromosome 9p21.3 that had previously been identified to be associated with myocardial infarction [heart attack], in a group of 151 patients suffering from the most aggressive, early-onset forms of periodontitis, and a group of 1,097 CHD patients who had already had a heart attack. The genetic variation associated with the clinical pictures of both diseases was identical," Dr. Arne Schaefer said in a European Society of Human Genetics (ESHG) news release.
Researchers have shown similarities between the bacteria found in the oral cavity and those in coronary plaques and both diseases are characterised by an imbalanced immune reaction and chronic inflammation. One theory is that the bacteria involved in gum disease trigger a low grade inflammatory response throughout the body, prompting changes in the arteries leading to strokes and heart attacks. Another possibility is that bacteria disturbs the way blood vessels dilate directly, since some bacteria can enter the bloodstream.
He and his colleagues verified this genetic association in additional groups of 180 periodontitis patients and 1,100 CHD patients.
Because of the link between periodontitis and CHD, "we think that periodontitis should be taken very seriously by dentists and diagnosed and treated as early as possible," Schaefer said. He noted that periodontitis and CHD share risk factors such as smoking, diabetes and obesity.
"Now that we know for sure that there is a strong genetic link, patients with periodontitis should try to reduce their risk factors and take preventive measures at an early stage," he said. "We hope that our findings will make it easier to diagnose the disease at an early stage, and that in future, a greater insight into the specific pathophysiology might open the way to effective treatment before the disease can take hold."
Source: Diabetes In Control: The study was presented May 25 at the annual ESHG conference, in Vienna, Austria.
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