Researchers Find Genetic Link to Heart Disease in Pregnant Woman

(KPCW News) Intermountain Medical Center researchers are getting closer to understanding why some women suffer heart failure in the final weeks of pregnancy or after giving birth. They’ve linked a genetic mutation to peripartum cardiomyopothy, or PPCM. Dr. Benjamin Horne, Intermountain’s Director of Cardiovascular and Genetic Epidemiology, says the women becomes fatigued and often need artificial heart support or a transplant because their heart no longer pumps blood efficiently. And he says most of them have never had heart troubles before.

“They are early in life. Just starting out.” Horne says. ”  Some of them in their late teens in their 20s or 30s and they have most of their life ahead of them and are expecting great things with having a new baby and then they end up not only having difficulty taking care of the child themselves, but also needing support for their health.”

The team spent four years on the study. Horne says identifying these genetic precursors will help make the disease more predictable to stave off more difficult treatments.

“The most likely application is we can study the biology that’s underlying the condition and see what other changes occur that are related to this genetic factor.” He says.  “And so we would be able to understand the medical condition itself even better.”

Horne says PPCM occurs in about one out of every 3-to-4,000 American women who have a baby, and that other studies have shown women of African ancestry are more vulnerable to the disease.