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Periodontal disease and coronary artery disease share genetic basis

Prof. Arne S. Schäfer, lead author of the meta-analysis, explores gum disease's and coronary artery disease's common genetic basis. (Image: Shutterstock/Kateryna Kon)

Wed. 20. June 2018


AMSTERDAM, Netherlands: A meta-analysis to be presented at EuroPerio9 has found that periodontal disease and coronary artery disease (CAD) share a common genetic basis. A variant in the promoter region (promoters initiate gene transcription) of the VAMP8 gene was significantly more frequent in CAD and periodontitis cases than in healthy controls, indicating the involvement of this gene in the aetiology of both diseases. According to the researchers, VAMP8 is involved in the import and export of molecules and other substances into and out of cells. Knowledge of the shared genetic basis helps scientists to understand the molecular mechanisms that underlie the diseases and predispose people to developing them, and to guide therapy, identification and preventative care in risk groups before the disease manifests.

Strong evidence of the association between CAD and periodontal disease has already been established. Both are among the most common diseases, are frequently diagnosed together and have common risk factors, such as smoking and diabetes. Both are characterised by a chronic inflammatory process, but independent of those shared risk factors, previous studies had suggested a few shared genetic variants.

“The identification of the shared genetic susceptibility factors will pinpoint relevant molecular pathways for the disease. This knowledge will yield very specific therapeutic targets for precision medicine. We believed that, given the localised nature of periodontitis, which is confined to the oral cavity, there would be a small variety of different pathways that had the potential to contribute to both diseases,” explained lead author Prof. Arne S. Schäfer, from the department of periodontics and synoptic dentistry at the Charité—Universitätsmedizin Berlin in Germany.

Schäfer said that it is important to understand that CAD and periodontal disease are not linked to lifestyle factors alone. “There are probably risk groups which have a genetic predisposition in response to certain factors. This also means that periodontitis does not increase the risk for CAD in general or vice versa. Nevertheless, a group of individuals may share a genetic predisposition, involving the VAMP8 function, which increases the risk for both diseases.” Regarding a general message for the public, he added: “The most efficient way to prevent the onset of both heart and periodontal diseases is to quit smoking and live healthily.”

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