Genes, the structural units of inheritance in living organisms are defined by intervals along one of the DNA (Deoxyribo Nucleic Acid) molecules. The DNA structure is a double helix, like a ladder that is twisted into a spiral shape. The DNA has a set of instructions, a detailed set of plans, much like a blueprint to build cells. DNA is packaged into compact units called "chromosomes". Each human cell has 46 chromosomes (2 sex chromosomes and 22 pairs of non sex chromosomes)
          We all have heard someone say.................
          "She has her mother's eyes" or "he has his father's chin".
          Why do we look like our parents?
          Each of us receives traits in the form of genes from our mother and father. The passing of genes from parent to child is known as inheritance. Each child receives half their genes from their father and half from their mother. So each child has some of each parent's traits ---some but not all.

Can Coronary Artery Disease Run in Families?

Yes . If a member of your immediate family (blood relative) has coronary artery disease, your risk of someday developing it is about twice as high as the rest of the population. The earlier in life a disease occurs, the greater is the influence of genes. Early age is generally considered to be before 55 for men and before 65 for women.

What genes are in involved in coronary artery disease?

Over 250 genes have been proposed to be involved in coronary artery disease (genes involved with LDL-C, HDL-C, blood clotting and wound healing). Further studies will be needed, not only to discover new genes, but also to understand how genes interact to increase or decrease risk. As in most common diseases, coronary artery disease results from an interaction of environment and genes.

Some environmental factors that reduce the risk of coronary artery disease even in the presence of genetic risk factors are:

  • avoiding tobacco

  • control of high blood pressure (by diet, exercise, weight reduction)

  • control of diabetes (by diet, exercise, weight reduction)

  • control of cholesterol (by diet, exercise, weight reduction)

  • control of weight (by diet, exercise, weight reduction)

  • regular exercise

  • daily aspirin

When coronary artery disease runs in families, why don't all family members have it?

All members of the same family do not have the same height or hair colour, so it makes sense that they will not all have the same conditions of disease. Genetics and environment both play a role. Some family members will be exposed to environmental agents that will trigger disease, and others will not.

How will discoveries about DNA help people and families with coronary disease?

By discovering the strengths and weakness of someone's genes, we can personalize medicine based on the prevention, diagnosis, treatment and prognosis.
Better genetic information may explain why one medication works better in one person and not in the other. It will make choosing treatments more precise. If a gene is over-active, then a scientist can look at ways to turn off or interfere with its activity. Likewise, if the gene is underactive, scientists can look at ways to increase its activity. Scientists believe genes will tell us a lot about the risk of developing coronary artery disease and the progress of coronary artery disease.


The GEMS Study is funded by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), a world leading research-based pharmaceutical company that is committed to focus on genetics in its drug research and development efforts, making it an industry leader in the science and technology of genetic research. Click the logo to find out more about Genetics at GSK.