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New Insights into Genetic Risk Factors for Varicose Veins

VARICOSE veins are more likely to occur the taller a person is, according to a new study from Stanford University, California, USA, which also identified 30 genes associated with the condition. The findings provide vital new insights into the genetic risk factors for varicose veins, a condition linked to the more serious side effects of deep vein thrombosis.

Creating New Therapies

Currently, there are only limited treatment options for people with varicose veins, which are mainly surgical procedures such as laser treatment or vein stripping. “The condition is incredibly prevalent but shockingly little is known about the biology,” said co-lead author Alyssa Flores, Stanford University. “We’re hoping that with this new information, we can create new therapies as our study highlights several genes that may represent new translational targets.”

Other Risk Factors

Another strong predictive marker for varicose veins found by the researchers was bioimpedance; they therefore believe that this measurement of how well the body impedes electrical flow could potentially be used to predict onset of varicose veins. The study also confirmed that characteristics already associated with varicose veins, such as older age, female sex, being overweight, and pregnancy, were risk factors for the condition; so too were surgery on the legs, family history, lack of movement, smoking, and hormone therapy.

Causal Effects of Height

The team were particularly surprised by the correlation found between height and varicose veins and used mendelian randomisation analyses to further investigate the causal effects. “Our results strongly suggest height is a cause, not just a correlated factor, but an underlying mechanism leading to varicose veins,” commented Prof Erik Ingelsson, Stanford University. “By conducting the largest genetic study ever performed for varicose vein disease, we now have a much better understanding of the biology that is altered in people at risk for the disease.”

Machine Learning

During the study, varicose vein risk factors from 413,519 participants from the UK Biobank were analysed using machine learning combined with epidemiological methods. Additionally, genome-wide association studies were conducted in 337,536 of the participants, of whom 9,577 had varicose vein disease, to screen for genetic markers; this technique identified the extra 30 regions of the genome linked to the condition.

 

James Coker, Reporter

For the source and further information about the study, click here.