A simple blood test has been developed which can detect potentially deadly inherited heart conditions affecting more than half a million people in the UK.
For many, the first indication that they might have an inherited heart condition is when a member of their family dies suddenly with no obvious explanation.
Genetic testing can pinpoint faulty genes and allow the person to be treated, to avoid the chance of an early death.
Scientists funded by the British Heart Foundation (BHF) have developed a new test that picks up all known inherited heart conditions using 174 genes, which is already in use at the Royal Brompton Hospital, in London.
Previous tests examined only a few genes and were only able to identify a few specific conditions.
The test, which is available to testing labs in Scotland, was hailed as a positive step forward by Scottish experts.
Professor Colin Berry, from the Institute of Cardiovascular and Medical Sciences at Glasgow University, said: “The genetic cause or causes of many inherited conditions that affect the heart are commonly unknown.
“This research will help provide new insights into the possible genetic, or inherited, cause of heart muscle disease for individual patients.”
The BHF has launched the Miles Frost Fund in memory of broadcaster Sir David Frost’s son, Miles, who died aged 31 last year of an undiagnosed heart condition called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), which he is thought to have inherited from his father.
Lead researcher Dr James Ware, from the Royal Brompton Hospital, said: “Genetic tests are invaluable when managing inherited heart conditions. They can help to make the initial diagnosis, and to choose the best treatment for the affected person.
“Without a genetic test, we often have to keep the whole family under regular surveillance for many years, because some of these conditions may not develop until later in life.”
Professor Peter Weissberg, medical director at the BHF, said: “Collectively, inherited heart conditions represent a major cause of heart disease and are often the cause of an unexplained sudden death in a young person.”