Apparently, heritable loss of a gene that spikes triglyceride levels plays a role in preventing heart attacks.
Experts differ in their estimates of how many Americans might be candidates for a triglyceride-lowering drug. If the eligible group included all adults with triglyceride levels of 200 or more — the normal level is 150 or less — that would mean about 20 percent of adult Americans. If it were just those with the highest levels, above 500, then 2 percent to 3 percent of adults would qualify.
The discovery announced on Wednesday was hinted at in 2008 in a much smaller study of the Amish conducted by researchers from the University of Maryland’s medical school. One in 20 Amish people has a mutation that destroys a gene, involved in triglyceride metabolism, compared with one in 150 Americans generally. The scientists were intrigued but did not have enough data to nail down the gene’s role in heart attacks.
One gene, APOC3, stood out. The scientists found four mutations that destroyed the function of this gene. The Amish study had discovered that people with such a mutation could drink a big, rich milkshake, loaded with fat, and their triglyceride levels did not budge. For everyone else, they spiked. The new studies show what that means for people’s health.
“Those who carry the gene mutations have a 40 percent reduction in triglyceride levels and a 40 percent lower risk of heart disease,” said Dr. Sekar Kathiresan of Massachusetts General Hospital and the Broad Institute. He is the lead researcher on the gene project.
Is this Darwinian evolution in action? No, because loss of function is the opposite of gain in function, which is what Darwin’s theory (natural selection acting on random mutation) proposes to explain.
Loss of function is a form of evolution, but is resources are very limited. The problem is, as Jonathan Bartlett kindly writes to say,
If we destroy enough genes we can make a human! If we burn enough buildings we can make a city, and if I comment out enough code I can write a program. I can build a company if only I can fire enough employees, and I can invent new machines by taking an axe all my prototypes.
Something is wrong with that picture, wonder what?
See also: Edge of Evolution
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