Ischaemic heart disease and stroke are vascular events with serious health consequences worldwide. Recent genetic and epigenetic techniques have revealed many genetic determinants of these vascular events and simplified the approaches to research focused on ischaemic heart disease and stroke. The pathogenetic mechanisms of ischaemic heart disease and stroke are complex, with mitochondrial involvement (partially or entirely) recently gaining substantial support. Not only can mitochondrial reactive oxygen species give rise to ischaemic heart disease and stroke by production of oxidised low-density lipoprotein and induction of apoptosis, but the impact on pericytes contributes directly to the pathogenesis. Over the past two decades, publications implicate the causative role of nuclear genes in the development of ischaemic heart disease and stroke, in contrast to the potential role of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) in the pathophysiology of the disorders, which is much less understood, although recent studies do demonstrate that the involvement of mitochondria and mtDNA in the development of ischaemic heart disease and stroke is likely to be larger than originally thought, with the novel discovery of links among mitochondria, mtDNA and vascular events. Here we explore the molecular events and mtDNA alterations in relation to the role of mitochondria in ischaemic heart disease and stroke.
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