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  • Writer's pictureFlow Australia

Mysterious heart disease affecting women

Scientists from UNSW Sydney and the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute are working to shed light on the number one cause of heart attacks for women under the age of 50.


Spontaneous coronary artery dissection (SCAD) is a serious condition, mainly occurring in women, when a tear forms in one of the blood vessels of the heart. This can slow or block blood flow to the heart, leading to a heart attack.


Many people who develop SCAD are otherwise fit and healthy. Unlike traditional heart attacks, SCAD is not associated with a plaque build-up and a blockage of the arteries and until recently very little was known about this disease.


By examining data from nearly 2000 patients, they discovered the genes involved in causing SCAD are mainly implicated in forming the matrix or scaffolding around the cells forming coronary arteries, as well as a gene involved in blood clotting. The researchers believe there are at least 16 genes associated with the disease, with a gene called PHACTR1 thought to be a key driver.


A deficiency in clotting factor is thought to increase the likelihood of a spontaneous bleed into the artery wall, which reduces blood flow as it expands and leads to a SCAD heart attack.


The research has been published in Nature Genetics


Excerpts article UNSW Newsroom

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