In the last few years, the advent of next generation sequencing (NGS) has revolutionized the approach to genetic studies, making whole-genome sequencing a possible way of obtaining global genomic information. NGS has very recently been shown to be successful in identifying novel causative mutations of rare or common Mendelian disorders. At the present time, it is expected that NGS will be increasingly important in the study of inherited and complex cardiovascular diseases (CVDs). However, the NGS approach to the genetics of CVDs represents a territory which has not been widely investigated. The identification of rare and frequent genetic variants can be very important in clinical practice to detect pathogenic mutations or to establish a profile of risk for the development of pathology. The purpose of this paper is to discuss the recent application of NGS in the study of several CVDs such as inherited cardiomyopathies, channelopathies, coronary artery disease and aortic aneurysm. We also discuss the future utility and challenges related to NGS in studying the genetic basis of CVDs in order to improve diagnosis, prevention, and treatment.
Next generation sequencing; Genetics of cardiovascular diseases; Cardiomyopathies; Coronary artery disease; Complex disease
Biobanks play a crucial role in "-Omics" research providing well-annotated samples to study major diseases, their pathways and mechanisms. Accordingly, there are major efforts worldwide to professionalize biobanks in order to provide high quality preservation and storage of biological samples with potentially greater scientific impact. Biobanks are an important resource to elucidate relevant disease mechanisms as well as to improve the diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment of both pediatric and adult cardiovascular disease. High-quality biological sample collections housed in specialized bio-repositories are needed to discover new genetic factors and molecular mechanisms of congenital heart disease and inherited cardiomyopathies in order to prevent the potential risk of having a fatal cardiac condition as well as to facilitate rational drug design around molecular diseases (personalized medicine). Biological samples are also required to improve the understanding the environmental mechanisms of heart disease (environmental cardiology). The goal of this paper is to focus on preanalytical issues (informed consent, sample type, time of collection, temperature and processing procedure) related to collection of biological samples for research purposes. In addition, the paper provides an overview of the efforts made recently by our Institute in designing and implementing a high-security liquid nitrogen storage system (-196°C). We described the implementations of reliable preservation technologies and appropriate quality control (the right temperature, the right environment, fully traceable with all possible back-up systems) in order to ensure maximum security for personnel as well as the quality and suitability of the stored samples.
Nitrogen biobank; gene expression; congenital heart malformations; CVD; mRNA; DNA.
Brain- derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is linked to neurodegenerative diseases (e.g. Alzheimer disease and Parkinson disease) which are often characterized by olfactory impairment. A specific single nucleotide polymorphism of the BDNF gene, the Val66Met, modulates intracellular trafficking and activity-dependent secretion of BDNF protein. The aim of this study was to investigate a possible association between brain- derived neurotrophic factor Val66Met polymorphism and olfactory function, a well-known biomarker for neurodegeneration, in healthy young adults. A total of 101 subjects (45 males, age 38.7 ± 9.4 years) were assessed using the Sniffin’ Sticks Extended Test, a highly reliable commercial olfactory test composed of three sub-parts, calculating olfactory threshold (sensitivity), odor discrimination and odor identification. The Val66Met polymorphism was determined by polymerase chain reaction -restriction fragment length polymorphism (PCR-RFLP) analysis.
An impaired function in Met carriers was found, especially when compared to subjects with Val/Val genotype, in the threshold (5.5 ± 2.0 vs 6.5 ± 1.8, p = 0.009), discrimination (10.3± 2.5 vs 11.9 ± 2.2, p = 0.002), and identification task (13.3 ± 1.6 vs 14.1 ± 1.3, p = 0.007), as well as in the overall TDI Score (29.1 ± 4.5 vs 32.6 ± 3.9, p < 0.001).
These findings appear to have implications for the evaluation of olfactory function and the relation of its impairment to cognitive decline and neurodegenerative disease.
Olfactory function; Brain - derived neurotrophic factor; Val66Met polymorphism
The purpose of our study was to investigate the potential contribution of germline mutations in NOTCH1, GATA5 and TGFBR1 and TGFBR2 genes in a cohort of Italian patients with familial Bicuspid Aortic Valve (BAV).
All the coding exons including adjacent intronic as well as 5′ and 3′ untranslated (UTR) sequences of NOTCH1, GATA5, TGFBR1 and TGFBR2 genes were screened by direct gene sequencing in 11 index patients (8 males; age = 42 ± 19 years) with familial BAV defined as two or more affected members.
Two novel mutations, a missense and a nonsense mutation (Exon 5, p.P284L; Exon 26, p.Y1619X), were found in the NOTCH1 gene in two unrelated families. The mutations segregated with the disease in these families, and they were not found on 200 unrelated chromosomes from ethnically matched controls. No pathogenetic mutation was identified in GATA5, TGFBR1 and TGFBR2 genes.
Two novel NOTCH1 mutations were identified in two Italian families with BAV, highlighting the role of a NOTCH1 signaling pathway in BAV and its aortic complications. These findings are of relevance for genetic counseling and clinical care of families presenting with BAV. Future studies are needed in order to unravel the still largely unknown genetics of BAV.
Bicuspid aortic valve; Direct gene sequencing; Genes
The arsenic (As) exposure represents an important problem in many parts of the World. Indeed, it is estimated that over 100 million individuals are exposed to arsenic, mainly through a contamination of groundwaters. Chronic exposure to As is associated with adverse effects on human health such as cancers, cardiovascular diseases, neurological diseases and the rate of morbidity and mortality in populations exposed is alarming. The purpose of this review is to summarize the genotoxic effects of As in the cells as well as to discuss the importance of signaling and repair of arsenic-induced DNA damage. The current knowledge of specific polymorphisms in candidate genes that confer susceptibility to arsenic exposure is also reviewed. We also discuss the perspectives offered by the determination of biological markers of early effect on health, incorporating genetic polymorphisms, with biomarkers for exposure to better evaluate exposure-response clinical relationships as well as to develop novel preventative strategies for arsenic- health effects.
arsenic; biomarkers; genotoxicity; genetic polymorphisms
Congenital anomalies and their primary prevention are a crucial public health issue. This work aimed to estimate the prevalence of congenital anomalies in Brindisi, a city in southeastern Italy at high risk of environmental crisis.
This research concerned newborns up to 28 days of age, born between 2001 and 2010 to mothers resident in Brindisi and discharged with a diagnosis of congenital anomaly. We classified cases according to the coding system adopted by the European Network for the Surveillance of Congenital Anomalies (EUROCAT). Prevalence rates of congenital anomalies in Brindisi were compared with those reported by EUROCAT. Logistic regression models were adapted to evaluate the association between congenital anomalies and municipality of residence of the mother during pregnancy.
Out of 8,503 newborns we recorded 194 subjects with congenital anomalies (228.2/10,000 total births), 1.2 times higher than the one reported by the EUROCAT pool of registries. We observed 83 subjects with congenital heart diseases with an excess of 49.1%. Odds Ratios for congenital heart diseases significantly increased for newborns to mothers resident in Brindisi (OR 1.75 CI 95% 1.30-2.35).
Our findings indicated an increased prevalence of Congenital Anomalies (especially congenital heart diseases) in the city of Brindisi. More research is needed in order to analyze the role of factors potentially involved in the causation of congenital anomalies.
Congenital anomalies; Hospital discharge data; Surveillance of birth defects; Registers of congenital anomalies
Insulin resistance (IR) and endothelial dysfunction are frequently associated in cardiac disease. The T−786→C variant in the promoter region of the endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS) gene has been associated with IR in both non-diabetic and diabetic subjects. Aim of the study was to assess the reciprocal relationships between T−786→C eNOS polymorphism and IR in ischemic and non-ischemic cardiomyopathy.
A group of 132 patients (108 males, median age 65 years) with global left ventricular (LV) dysfunction secondary to ischemic or non-ischemic heart disease was enrolled. Genotyping of T−786→C eNOS gene promoter, fasting glucose, insulin, and insulin resistance (defined as HOMA-IR index > 2.5) were determined in all patients.
Genotyping analysis yielded 37 patients homozygous for the T allele (TT), 70 heterozygotes (TC) and 25 homozygous for C (CC). Patients with CC genotype had significantly higher systemic arterial pressure, blood glucose, plasma insulin and HOMA index levels than TT. At multivariate logistic analysis, the history of hypertension and the genotype were the only predictors of IR. In particular, CC genotype increased the risk of IR (CI% 1.4-15.0, p < 0.01) 4.5-fold. The only parameter independently associated with the extent of LV dysfunction and the presence of heart failure (HF) was the HOMA index (2.4 CI% 1.1-5.6, p < 0.04).
T−786→C eNOS polymorphism was the major independent determinant of IR in a population of patients with ischemic and non-ischemic cardiomyopathy. The results suggest that a condition of primitive eNOS lower expression can predispose to an impairment of glucose homeostasis, which in turn is able to affect the severity of heart disease.
eNOS polymorphism; Insulin resistance; Heart failure
Atherosclerosis is the leading cause of morbidity and mortality among Western populations. Over the past two decades, considerable evidence has supported a crucial role for DNA damage in the development and progression of atherosclerosis. These findings support the concept that the prolonged exposure to risk factors (e.g., dyslipidemia, smoking and diabetes mellitus) leading to reactive oxygen species are major stimuli for DNA damage within the plaque. Genomic instability at the cellular level can directly affect vascular function, leading to cell cycle arrest, apoptosis and premature vascular senescence. The purpose of this paper is to review current knowledge on the role of DNA damage and DNA repair systems in atherosclerosis, as well as to discuss the cellular response to DNA damage in order to shed light on possible strategies for prevention and treatment.
DNA damage; atherosclerosis; DNA repair; miRNAs
We describe a case of a patient with idiopathic dilated cardiomyopathy and cardiac conduction abnormalities who presented a strong family history of sudden cardiac death. Genetic screening of lamin A/C gene revealed in proband the presence of a novel missense mutation (R189W), near the most prevalent lamin A/C mutation (R190W), suggesting a "hot spot" region at exon 3.
Several studies have shown that common carotid intima-media thickness (IMT) is increased after radiotherapy (RT) to the head and neck. However, further studies are needed to define the exact mechanism of radiation-induced injury in large vessels, investigate the relationship between radiation dose and large vessel injury and evaluate the rate of progress of atherosclerosis in irradiated vessels.
To investigate whether external irradiation to the carotid area has any effect on IMT of the common carotid artery in a group of patients who received RT vs control group matched for age, gender and race.
We studied 19 patients (10 male; 47.8 ± 17.4 years) during a 5-month period (January 2009-July 2009); they had completed RT with a mean of 2.9 years before (range: 1 month-6 years) The mean radiation dose to the neck in the irradiated patients was 41.2 ± 15.6 Gy (range: 25-70 Gy). Common carotid IMT was measured with echo-color Doppler. Nineteen healthy adult patients (10 male; 47.8 ± 17.6) were recruited as a control group.
IMT was not significantly higher in patients when compared to the control group (0.59 ± 0.16 vs 0.56 ± 0.16 mm, p = 0.4). There was no significant difference between the two groups in relation to the absence (p = 0.7) or presence (p = 0.6) of vascular risk factors. Although the difference did not reach statistical significance (p = 0.1), the irradiated young patients (age ≤ 52 years) had IMT measurements higher (0.54 ± 0.08 mm) than the non-irradiated young patients (0.49 ± 0.14 mm). The mean carotid IMT increased with increasing doses of radiation to the neck (p = 0.04).
This study shows that increased IMT of the common carotid artery after RT is radiation-dose-related. Therefore it is important to monitor IMT, which can be used as an imaging biomarker for early diagnosis of cerebrovascular disease in patients who have had radiotherapy for treatment of cancer of the head and neck and who are at increased risk for accelerated atherosclerosis in carotid arteries.
The bicuspid aortic valve (BAV) and specific systemic autoimmune diseases are associated with cardiovascular manifestation, including aortic aneurysm. We reported a case of 64 year-old patient with BAV and a history of ankylosing spondylitis (AS) and systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), and who developed ascending thoracic aortic aneurysm. The patient presented also the homozygosity for genetic variants of MMP9, ACE, MTHFR and PAI-1 genes. Gene-environmental interactions may represent an additional pathogenetic dimension in the still challenging management of the abnormalities of the aortic wall, including dilatation, aneurysm and dissection.
Cardiac diagnostic or therapeutic testing is an essential tool for diagnosis and treatment of cardiovascular disease, but it also involves considerable exposure to ionizing radiation. Every exposure produces a corresponding increase in cancer risk, and risks are highest for radiation exposure during infancy and adolescence. Recent studies on chromosomal biomarkers corroborate the current radioprotection assumption showing that even modest radiation load due to cardiac catheter-based fluoroscopic procedures can damage the DNA of the cell. In this article, we review the biological and clinical risks of cardiac imaging employing ionizing radiation. We also discuss the perspectives offered by the use of molecular biomarkers in order to better assess the long-term development of health effects.
ionizing radiation; DNA damage; cancer risk; biomarkers; genetic polymorphisms
Genetic testing has become an increasingly important part of medical practice for heritable form of cardiomyopathies. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and about 50% of idiopathic dilatative cardiomyopathy are familial diseases, with an autosomal dominant pattern of inheritance.
Some genotype-phenotype correlations can provide important information to target DNA analyses in specific genes. Genetic testing may clarify diagnosis and help the optimal treatment strategies for more malignant phenotypes. In addition, genetic screening of first-degree relatives can help early identification and diagnosis of individuals at greatest risk for developing cardiomyopathy, allowing to focus clinical resources on high-risk family members.
This paper provides a concise overview of the genetic etiology as well as the clinical utilities and limitations of genetic testing for the heritable cardiomyopathies.
Ultrasounds and ionizing radiation are extensively used for diagnostic applications in the cardiology clinical practice. This paper reviewed the available information on occupational risk of the cardiologists who perform, every day, cardiac imaging procedures. At the moment, there are no consistent evidence that exposure to medical ultrasound is capable of inducing genetic effects, and representing a serious health hazard for clinical staff. In contrast, exposure to ionizing radiation may result in adverse health effect on clinical cardiologists. Although the current risk estimates are clouded by approximations and extrapolations, most data from cytogenetic studies have reported a detrimental effect on somatic DNA of professionally exposed personnel to chronic low doses of ionizing radiation. Since interventional cardiologists and electro-physiologists have the highest radiation exposure among health professionals, a major awareness is crucial for improving occupational protection. Furthermore, the use of a biological dosimeter could be a reliable tool for the risk quantification on an individual basis.