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Double-duty DNA plays a role in birth and death

Some gene versions stuck around because fertility advantage outweighs heart disease risk

12:00pm, July 5, 2017
sleeping baby

DOUBLE-EDGED DNA  Genes associated with reproduction are also implicated in heart disease, new research shows.   

Babies are little heartbreakers — literally. Genetic variants linked to fertility are also linked to coronary artery disease, a new study finds.

It’s not uncommon to find genes that affect more than one trait, but this is the first time scientists have seen a genetic connection between reproduction and heart disease, the researchers report online June 22 in PLOS Genetics. “Evolution is on a buy now, pay later plan,” says coauthor Stephen Stearns, an evolutionary biologist at Yale University. The connection “leads to a view of us as a bundle of trade-offs,” he says. And in this case, genes’ reproductive benefits apparently outweigh even lethal side effects later in life.

Coronary artery disease — one of the most deadly diseases worldwide — results from plaque accumulation in the arteries that supply blood to the heart.

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