Major medical breakthrough: New gene pegged as cause of heart attacks in youth

After conducting a study for nearly 20 years, medical researchers have identified a new gene that is a major cause of sudden death among young people and athletes.

The gene called CDH2, causes Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricle Cardio-Myopathy, a genetic disorder that makes young people vulnerable to cardiac arrest.

The University of Cape Town (UCT), Instituto Auxologico Italiano and the SA Medical Research Council made the announcement on Thursday.

The study which was based on a family affected by a heart muscle problem is believed to be the biggest breakthrough in South African cardiology since Dr Chris Barnard's first heart transplant.

Cardiology Professor, Bongani Mayosi is the Dean of Medicine at the University of Cape Town.

Mayosi who helped pioneer research into the disease, says understanding the inherited condition will now help develop ways to prevent it.

The important point now is that when people come to doctors with symptoms that are suggestive of heart disease, particularly heart muscle disease, they can have this test done to help confirm the diagnosis.

Bongani Mayosi , Cardiology Professor and Dean of Medicine at the University of Cape Town

Mayosi explains that there are difficulties in diagnosing this form of heart disease.

You need to use clinical methods to find it but also blood tests such as this can be helpful.

Bongani Mayosi , Cardiology Professor and Dean of Medicine at the University of Cape Town

We can then screen the family and identify members of the family who do not yet have symptoms and be able to advise them to avoid being involved in activities that could put them at risk of dying suddenly.

Bongani Mayosi , Cardiology Professor and Dean of Medicine at the University of Cape Town

Athletic activity, especially endurance athletic activity can put you at risk of dying suddenly if you have this partially genetic mutation.

Bongani Mayosi , Cardiology Professor and Dean of Medicine at the University of Cape Town

Click on the link below to hear the full interview...

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