Dutch hearts at risk from genetic mutation


SIOUX FALLS, SD (KELO) — It is not a genetic mutation every person of Dutch descent will have but given the number of those of Dutch descent in northwest Iowa, there’s a good chance someone does.

Dordt University student Lucy Borkowski is working this summer on a research project through the university and a lab in the Netherlands. The research is on the genetic mutation Phospholamban protein or PLN.

Borkowski said PLN can cause myocardial heart disease (cardiomyopathy). PLN causes abnormal heart rhythm and can lead to unexpected death.

PLN was discovered within the past 20 years. It was traced to the Netherlands and the origins were traced back to Friesland.

“It’s passed on from generation to generation. It’s a dominant mutation. If you are a carrier you have a 50% chance of passing it along to your children,” Borkowski said.

Dordt University is in Sioux Center, Iowa, which is the heart of Dutch heritage in the US It’s an ideal place to start the research, Borkowski said.

“Sioux Center, Iowa, actually has the highest percent population of Dutch individual per ratio to the population size in America,” Borkowski said. “The community is 60% (Dutch descent).”

According to StatisticalAtlas, 46% of the county identifies as of Dutch descent.

Borkowski is interested in the community health and her role in the research is outreach to the community.

“My job description you could say is raising awareness of this genetic mutation,” Borkowski said.

She also wants people who have questions about PLN or who may believe PLN may be part of their medical history, to contact her.

“The first step you can do is if you’re interested in learning more and you think feel your family is affected by PLN, would be to look at your family history to see if you have a history of someone passing away unexpectedly due to heart conditions or heart problems,” Borkowski said. Or if they have symptoms like irregular heartbeat, shortness of breath, which could be indicators and need to be checked out, she said.

If someone suspects a family history or personal history with PLN, they should contact their doctor and could be tested for PLN, she said.

Borkowski wants to be contacted at any point during the process, even before the person may test for PLN.

The research needs to include persons with PLN. Research can also help people learn more about PLN and related, Borkowski said. It’s hoped that research leads to a cure, Borkowski said.

Borkowski has contacted community organizations, hospitals and clinics to raise awareness about PLN and to inform the public about PLN research project.

The next step is to expand the contact to pockets of Dutch descent populations in Grand Rapids, Michigan, or parts of California and Washington, she said.

To learn more about the PLN project and to contact Borkowski, use the project Facebook page at PLN Genetic Mutation Awareness or email at pln@dordt.edu or lcybrkwsk19@dordt.edu.

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