Mayo Clinic researchers have found a gene mutation linked to one family’s hereditary form of atrial fibrillation. Researchers hope this discovery will lead to better understanding of the disease and, eventually, better ways to predict, prevent and treat the heart rhythm problem.
Atrial fibrillation is the most common irregular heartbeat seen by physicians and affects more than 2 million Americans. Most individuals with atrial fibrillation have identifiable risk factors, such as high blood pressure or structural heart disease, and tend to be elderly. But studies indicate that genetics also has a role, says Timothy Olson, M.D., a pediatric cardiologist at Mayo Clinic and senior author of the study.
“We know that some patients develop atrial fibrillation at a younger age without an apparent underlying cause, suggesting a hereditary basis for their disease and prompting research to identify gene mutations,” Dr. Olson says. “The family history may provide an additional clue. Atrial fibrillation can be caused by genetic defects that patients are born with, yet it typically takes years or decades for the heart to become electrically unstable and for symptoms of arrhythmia to develop.”
Dr. Olson provides background on the research and an overview of the study.
Dr. Olson describes the next steps for the research and potential future applications.