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Researchers identify common gene variant associated with atrial fibrillation

December 27, 2015

The analysis associated lone AF with several common variants on a segment of chromosome 1. The most significant variants were found in the gene for KCNN3, a potassium channel protein that carries signals across cell membranes in organs including the brain and the heart. While the exact cardiac role of the protein is unknown, it may play a part in resetting the electrical activity of the atria, a process that goes awry in AF. Animal studies have suggested that a related protein, KCNN2, may help control signals originating in the atria and in the pulmonary veins, areas known to be involved in lone AF. The researchers replicated the association of KCNN3 variants with lone AF in data from two additional GWAS studies involving another 1,000 lone AF patients and 3,500 controls.

Ellinor, an assistant professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, and his colleagues note that additional study is required to clarify exactly how variations in KCNN3 and associated genes may affect the risk for lone AF, whether these and other gene variants can predict how a patient's symptoms will progress and to investigate their usefulness as treatment targets. The study was supported by a wide range of public and private funders, including the National Institutes of Health.

Source: Massachusetts General Hospital