British scientists claim to have identified the “missing link” between heart failure, our genes and environment, a breakthrough which can pave the way for new and effective treatment for cardiovascular diseases.

In their research, a team at University of Cambridge compared heart tissue from two groups - patients with end-stage heart failure and those with healthy hearts, and found that specific regions of the DNA in the diseased hearts contained “marks” known as DNA methylation, but the healthy ones didn’t.

According to the scientists, this is the first study linking human heart failure with DNA methylation already known to play a key part in development of most cancers.

Lead author Dr. Roger Foo wrote in the ‘PLoS One’ journal, “DNA methylation leaves ‘marks’ on the genome, and there is already good evidence that these marks are strongly influenced by environment and diet.

“We found that this process is different in diseased and normal hearts. Linking all these things together suggests this may be the ‘missing link’ between environmental factors and heart failure.”

According to the scientists, the findings deepen the understanding of the genetic changes which can lead to heart disease and how these can be caused by diet and environment, thereby opening up new ways of treating heart disease.

“The next stage of our research is to find hotspots in the genome. This should help us identify people at risk of heart disease, and pinpoint patients whose disease will progress fastest. This would radically alter how we manage patients with heart disease, allowing us to target treatments and tailor monitoring,” Foo said.

Adding Prof Jeremy Pearson of British Heart Foundation, which funded the research said, “By detecting the molecular changes in failing hearts, this research suggests that previously unsuspected mechanisms contribute to heart failure. And these findings open up possibility of identifying new ways to treat this debilitating condition.”