London: Scientists have identified a gene mutation that can interact with alcohol to accelerate heart failure in some patients.
The researchers from Imperial College London, Royal Brompton Hospital, and MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences in the UK investigated faulty versions of a gene called titin which are carried by one in 100 people or 600,000 people in the UK.
Titin is crucial for maintaining the elasticity of the heart muscle, and faulty versions are linked to a type of heart failure called dilated cardiomyopathy.
The study, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, showed that the faulty gene may interact with alcohol to accelerate heart failure in some patients with the gene, even if they only drink moderate amounts of alcohol.
The team analysed 141 patients with a type of heart failure called alcoholic cardiomyopathy (ACM). This condition is triggered by drinking more than 70 units a week (roughly seven bottles of wine) for five years or more.
In severe cases the condition can be fatal, or leave patients requiring a heart transplant.
The team found that the faulty titin gene may also play a role in the condition. In the study 13.5 per cent of patients were found to carry the mutation - much higher than the proportion of people who carry them in the general population.
The results suggest this condition is not simply the result of alcohol poisoning, but arises from a genetic predisposition - and that other family members may be at risk too, said James Ware, from Imperial.
In a second part of the study, researchers investigated whether alcohol may play a role in another type of heart failure called dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM).
This condition causes the heart muscle to become stretched and thin, and has a number of causes including viral infections and certain medications. The condition can also be genetic, and around 12 per cent of cases of DCM are thought to be linked to a faulty titin gene.
In the study the team asked 716 patients with dilated cardiomyopathy how much alcohol they consumed.
None of the patients consumed the high-levels of alcohol needed to cause ACM. However, the team found that in patients whose DCM was caused by the faulty titin gene, even moderately increased alcohol intake (defined as drinking above the weekly recommended limit of 14 units), affected the heart's pumping power.
More research is now needed to investigate how alcohol may affect people who carry the faulty titin gene, but do not have heart problems, said Paul Barton, from Imperial.
"Alcohol and the heart have a complicated relationship. While moderate levels may have benefits for heart health, too much can cause serious cardiac problems. This research suggests that in people with titin-related heart failure, alcohol may worsen the condition," said Barton. (PTI)