Heritability of vascular structure and function: A parent-child study

Justin R Ryder, Nathan D Pankratz, Donald R Dengel, Jim Pankow, David R Jacobs Jr, Alan R Sinaiko, Vasu Gooty, Julia Steinberger

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13 Scopus citations


Background-Understanding the heritable contribution of vascular measures, from parent to offspring, may aid in risk stratification and atherosclerosis prevention efforts. We hypothesized that measures of vascular structure and function would be heritable in this cohort of parents and their adolescent offspring. Methods and Results-High-resolution ultrasound scans of the brachial and carotid arteries were obtained in parents (n=558) and their offspring (n=369). Lumen diameter and flow-mediated dilation were measured in the brachial artery. Intima-media thickness, lumen diameter, incremental elastic modulus, diameter distensibility, and cross-sectional distensibility were measured, and carotid cross-sectional compliance was measured in the carotid artery. Carotid-radial pulse wave velocity was obtained using SphygmoCor®. Heritability analysis (h2, expressed as %) using Sequential Oligogenic Linkage Analysis Routines was performed on the entire cohort and adjusted for age, sex, race, body-mass index, smoking, and mean arterial pressure. Data are presented as mean±SE. Measures of brachial artery diameter (h2=25±9%, P=0.001), lumen diameter (h2=55±9%, P < 0.001), intima-media thickness (h2=29±13%, P=0.014), diameter distensibility (h2=28±7%, P < 0.001), cross-sectional distensibility (h2=27±7%, P < 0.001), and pulse wave velocity (h2=26±9%, P < 0.001) were significantly heritable. Flow-mediated dilation and incremental elastic modulus were not significantly heritable. Similar associations were observed in analysis restricted to siblings and complete Trios (mother, father, and child). Conclusions-These data show that the majority of noninvasive measures of vascular structure and function are heritable, suggesting that measurement of these subclinical risk factors in parents may be helpful in assessing childhood risk for future cardiovascular disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere004757
JournalJournal of the American Heart Association
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 The Authors.


  • Carotid artery
  • Carotid intima-media thickness
  • Heritability
  • Vascular endothelial function
  • Vascular imaging


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