A specific gene that may be responsible for differences in symptoms and outcomes of heart attack between men and women has been identified by a team of researchers.
According to Jennifer Dungan, Associate Professor at University of Florida’s College of Nursing, many of the current symptom profiles and lab tests for heart disease do not accurately reflect known differences in women’s heart disease.
This oversight has led to increased gaps in health care equity.
“Because of this disparity, women are more likely than men to report heart disease symptoms that appear out of the norm, experience delayed treatment for heart disease and even have undiagnosed heart attacks,” Dungan said.
“For reasons that remain uncertain, women can experience heart disease differently than men. This can lead to inequities for women that need to be addressed.”
Dungan said cardiac researchers believe that some of these differences in symptoms and outcomes may be due to genetic variation between men and women. She has identified a specific gene she believes may be responsible, named RAP1GAP2.
“RAP1GAP2 is a strong candidate for sex-linked effects on women’s heart disease outcomes,” Dungan said.
“Certain DNA markers in this gene are thought to manage the activity of platelets, colourless blood cells that help our blood clot. This also presents a heart attack risk. An overactive gene could cause too many platelets to respond to the clot, which could block the flow of blood and oxygen to the heart muscle and lead to a heart attack,” she added.
Since RAP1GAP2 was not linked to poor heart outcomes among men in her team’s study, she believes this gene may work differently in women.
Their findings were recently published in American Heart Journal Plus.
“Our goal is to find the gene markers most accurately linked to heart disease for all women,” Dungan said.
Dungan and her team aims to analyse health data from 17,000 postmenopausal women. They plan to use statistical genetics methods to study if there is a link between certain DNA markers on RAP1GAP2 and heart disease among women.
“At the end of the study, if RAP1GAP2 gene markers accurately reflect women’s heart symptoms and predict their likelihood of a future heart attack, stroke or death, then those gene markers could help us be more confident in their diagnosis and future prognosis,” she said. “Having more accurate biomarkers for women would save lives and improve health equity for all women.”