Research into the links between genes and heart disease is attracting more attention from both cardiologists and granting agencies. Both groups are coming to accept what cell biologists have suspected for some time--that dissecting the genetic causes of extremely rare diseases will yield important clues to the pathogenesis of more common maladies. Since 1989, the genes behind a handful of inherited cardio-vascular conditions have been identified, shifting the focus of the field to genetic studies, researchers say.

"These discoveries will usher in a new age of research, with a great impact on diagnosis, reversal of conditions, prognoses, treatment, even cure," says Stephen Mockrin, a cardiologist and chief of the hypertension and kidney diseases branch of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) in Bethesda, Md.

For now, though, the number of grants being funded for inherited cardiovascular disease reflects the rarity of these conditions. For example, in fiscal year...

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