By Margarita Nahapetyan
It has been known for several years that there is some type of relationship between coronary heart disease (CHD) and dental disease periodontitis. However, despite a number of theories about how they work, the existence of this link between the two conditions remained a mystery until now. Scientists from the Universities of Kiel, Dresden, Bonn and Amsterdam for the first time now have identified a genetic link between gum and heart diseases.
Dr. Arne Schaefer, a scientist at the University of Kiel and a lead author of the study, said that he and his colleagues found the gene linking the two conditions on chromosome 9. The gene had already been linked to heart attacks but in the latest study was observed both in a group of 1,097 individuals with coronary heart disease and in 151 patients with the most aggressive forms of gum disease periodontitis.
The further analysis of 1,100 coronary heart disease patients and 180 periodontitis patients demonstrated that the genetic variation was located in a genetic region that codes for an antisense DNA called ANRIL and that it is identical in both diseases. Although it is clear what protein the gene encodes it still uncertain how this is being associated with the diseases.
Dr. Schaefer said that gum disease should be taken extremely seriously and that patients should address the problem as early as possible. Both coronary heart disease and dental disease are propagated by the same risk factors, such as smoking, diabetes and excessive weight - and there is also a gender relationship, when male are possibly more likely to develop these diseases when compared to their female counterparts.
Scientists have also demonstrated similarities between the bacteria that have been found in the oral cavity and those in coronary plaques, and both conditions are characterized by an imbalanced immune reaction and persistent inflammation. One theory is that the bacteria that are involved in dental disease, cause a low grade inflammatory response within the body, prompting changes in the arteries and resulting in strokes and heart attacks. Another theory is that bacteria disturbs the way blood vessels dilate directly, since some bacteria can be present in the bloodstream.
The investigators say that individuals who have periodontitis and who share a common gene mutation, are at an increased risk of suffering heart attacks. This finding of this new study appears to be very interesting, providing an explanation why people who have perfectly healthy hearts are sometimes taken to hospital due to serious heart health issues.
According to the researchers, their study results point out that gum disease, if not treated on time and in a proper way, can lead to the onset of heart-related problems. Coronary heart disease is the leading cause of death all across the world, and periodontitis, which results in the loss of connective tissue and the bone support of teeth, is one of the main causes of tooth loss in people over 40 years of age. Periodontitis is a common problem for many, and around 90 per cent of individuals with the ages over 60, suffer from it.
The discovery was presented on May 25, 2009, at the annual conference of the European Society of Human Genetics in Vienna, Austria.