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About our Studies

Study Disorders

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)


Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD)

Chiari Malformations and Syringomyelia

Early Onset Cardiovascular Disease

Familial Focal Segmental Glomerulosclerosis (FSGS)


Multiple Sclerosis (MS)


Neural Tube Defects (NTD)

Ophthalmic Genetic Disorders

Sickle Cell Disease (SCD)

Study Participant FAQ
Clinical Staff

Early Onset Cardiovascular Disease (EOCAD)

Genetics and Early Onset Coronary Artery Diseases (EOCAD)

Coronary artery disease (CAD) is the most common form of cardiovascular (heart) disease. It occurs when the coronary arteries that supply oxygen and nutrient-rich blood to the heart become blocked over time due to the buildup of fat, cholesterol, and other substances. The narrowing of these arteries is called atherosclerosis, and it slows or stops the flow of blood through the heart's blood vessels and can lead to a heart attack.

CAD, as most chronic diseases whose incidence increases with age, is considered a complex disorder caused by both genetic and environmental components. It has long been observed that coronary artery disease is more common in some families than in others. Early onset (premature) coronary artery disease (diagnosis at less than 50 years of age)appears to have particularly strong genetic causes, but the actual genes responsible have not yet been identified.

Research into human genetic disorders has made great progress in recent years, mainly because of advancements in biomedical technology. Equipped with greater knowledge, better laboratory techniques, and improved statistical tools, genetic researchers are now in a position to unlock the mysteries of these complex disorders.

Researchers at the Duke Molecular Physiology Institute (DMPI), formerly the Duke Center for Human Genetics, and the Division of Cardiology at Duke University Medical Center (DUMC) are trying to determine the genetic factors related to EOCAD in a study called GENECARD: GENE refers to the goal of the study, to find the genes associated with early onset coronary artery disease. CARD is taken from the word cardiology (the study of the heart). Thus, we get the name GENECARD.

The long-term goal of this study is to find out how genetic factors cause or contribute to EOCAD, with the hope this knowledge will lead to earlier diagnosis and more effective treatments.

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GENECARD Research Review

Finding genes is a tremendous effort that requires the combined efforts of many people. Individuals with EOCAD and their family members are the most important members of this team. The other members of the research team include physicians, physician assistants, genetic counselors, clinical geneticists, genetic epidemiologists, molecular biologists, statisticians, and data and laboratory technicians.

Elizabeth Hauser, PhD Principal Investigator
William E. Kraus, MD Principal Investigator
Christopher B. Granger, MD Principal Investigator
Simon Gregory, PhD Principal Investigator

In addition to all the research participants and the research personnel, the GENECARD team strives to work with families and professionals from different locations. The main reason for this cooperative effort is that finding genes requires the participation of many special families. In order to work with as many families as possible, we have collaborating clinics in several different areas of the country and five "hub" sites in different areas of the world.

 Duke/DUCCS Collaborating GENECARD Sites and GENECARD International "Hub" Sites

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GENECARD Study Participation

 Frequently Asked Questions

GENECARD Study Coordinator
Elaine Dowdy, MS Study Coordinator

Families are eligible if two or more living siblings (brothers and/or sisters) in the same family have been diagnosed with EOCAD (by age 50 for men and by age 55 for women) and are willing to participate. Participating families will be asked to contribute the following forms of information to the study:

  • A detailed family medical and environmental risk factor history
  • A blood sample from all participating family members
  • Medical records relating to the diagnosis of EOCAD.

Once blood samples are received in the laboratory, the genetic material (DNA) is removed from the white blood cells and stored. The DNA is used to compare the DNA sequence from those individuals in GENECARD families affected by EOCAD with those individuals not affected by EOCAD.

Travel to Duke University Medical Center is not necessary. The GENECARD research team will visit families in their own homes or complete the study using express mail. All charges are covered by Duke. There are no charges to participants.

This research does not give a result in the short term, but we hope that in the next few years the research will allow us to better understand the cause of EOCAD, to diagnose it earlier, and develop new treatments to prevent it.

To receive GENECARD study participation information, please contact:

Elaine Dowdy, GENECARD Study Coordinator
Phone: (toll free) (800) DUKE-CHG (800) 385-3244
Phone: (919) 660-6725
E-mail: dowdy002@duke.edu

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Additional EOCAD/GENECARD Information

Duke DMPI Newsletter
News about…GENECARD: A Genetic Study of Early Onset Coronary Artery Disease is published yearly by the DMPI.

To obtain a printed copy, contact the GENECARD study coordinators:

Elaine Dowdy
Phone: (919) 660-6725
E-mail: dowdy002@duke.edu

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