Although analysis of lipoprotein phenotypes is widely used to diagnose and classify the familial hyperlipidemias, an evaluation of this system as a method for genetic classification has hitherto not been published. The present study of 156 genetically defined survivors of myocardial infarction was therefore designed to examine the relationship between lipoprotein phenotypes and genetic lipid disorders. The lipoprotein phenotypes of each survivor was determined primarily by measurement of his plasma triglyceride and low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol concentrations; his genetic disorder was identified by analysis of whole plasma cholesterol and triglyceride levels in relatives. These studies indicate that lipoprotein phenotypes are not qualitative markers in the genetic sense but instead are quantitative parameters which may vary among different individuals with the same genetic lipid disorder. It would therefore seem likely that a genetic classification of the individual hyperlipidemic patient with coronary heart disease made from a quantitative analysis of lipid levels in his relatives may provide a more meaningful approach than determination of lipoprotein phenotypes.
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