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Researchers have found the way for earlier identification of people at risk of heart failure and development of new treatments.
The research team applied an artificial intelligence (AI) technique to analyse the heart MRI images of 17,000 healthy UK Biobank volunteers and found that genetic factors accounted for 22-39 per cent of variation in the size and function of the heart's left ventricle, the organ's main pumping chamber.
Enlargement and reduced pumping function of the left ventricle can lead to heart failure, the study said.
"It is exciting that the state-of-the-art AI techniques now allow rapid and accurate measurement of the tens of thousands of heart MRI images required for genetic studies," said study lead researcher Nay Aung from Queen Mary University of London.
"The findings open up the possibility of earlier identification of those at risk of heart failure and of new targeted treatments," Aung said.
The research, published journal Circulation, suggests that genetic factors significantly influence the variation in heart structure and function.
The team identified 14 regions in the human genome associated with the size and function of the left ventricle - each containing genes that regulate the early development of heart chambers and the contraction of heart muscle.
Previous studies have shown that differences in the size and function of the heart are partly influenced by genes but the researchers have not really understood the extent of that genetic influence.
This study has shown that several genes known to be important in heart failure also appear to regulate the heart size and function in healthy people.
"That understanding of the genetic basis of heart structure and function in the general population improves our knowledge of how heart failure evolves," said study researcher Steffen Petersen.
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