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Genetics cause man with clean bill of health to have heart bypass surgery

Clinical trial underway surrounding Lipoprotein(a)
Man with clean bill of health undergoes heart bypass surgery
Posted at 6:30 PM, Feb 28, 2022

CLEVELAND — Don Kosec was in the prime of his life. A successful vice president of a company, husband, dad and healthy.

“Normal weight, normal cholesterol, normal blood pressure,” Kosec explained. He thought he had a clean bill of health, until one day while traveling, he felt shortness of breath and shoulder pain. He went to his family doctor and had a series of tests. After those tests, Kosec immediately underwent heart bypass surgery.

“It stunned me. It completely caught me off guard, “he said.

After his surgery, Kosec was on a mission to keep his heart healthy. That brought him to Dr. Leslie Cho at the Cleveland Clinic. She tested him for Lipoprotein (a), a lesser-known kind of cholesterol. The results: Kosec was about four times higher than a normal level.

“Having elevated Lipoprotein (a) increases your risk of having early heart disease and stroke,” said Cho, Head of Preventive Cardiology Cleveland Clinic. Despite his healthy lifestyle, genetics played a role. About 25% of people around the world have an elevated level which often go undetected.

“It’s part of the guidelines in Europe, in Canada, in Britain, it’s just made it the U.S. guidelines. And so, people are just hearing about it, but it’s been around for a long time,” explained Cho.

Kosec is now part of a global clinical trial aimed at silencing the gene that caused his arteries to be blocked. The clinical trial is looking at potential medication to lower the Lipoprotein (a) levels.

“If this turns out to be a positive trial, it will really be a paradigm shift, “said Cho.

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