Ground-breaking global study reveals new hypertension and blood pressure genes

stethoscope-1584222_640A study funded by the NIHR, NIH, Wellcome Trust and the Medical Research Council have discovered 31 new gene regions that are linked with blood pressure. Hailed as one of the largest studies to date, the study involves over 347,000 people led by Queen Mary’s university of London and the University of Cambridge.

Discoveries included DNA changes in three rare genes that have a larger effect on blood pressure than previously seen within the population, discovery of which has provided valuable new insights into the physiology of hypertension and suggesting new and focused targets for treatment.

High blood pressure (also known as hypertension) is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease and premature death. It is currently estimated to be responsible for a large proportion of global disease burden and premature mortality compared to other disease risk factors. Although there is limited knowledge on the genetics of blood pressure.

Participants of the study included healthy individuals and those with diabetes, coronary artery disease and hypertension, from across a variety of EU countries including UK, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland and Estonia), in addition to those from the USA, Pakistan and Bangladesh. The study brought together around 200 investigators from across 15 countries.

Dr Joanna Howson, University of Cambridge said, “The sheer scale of our study has enabled us to identify genetic variants carried by less than one in a hundred people that affect blood pressure regulation. While we have known for a long time that blood pressure is a risk factor for coronary heart disease and stroke, our study has shown that there are common genetic risk factors underlying these conditions.”

Professor Patricia Munroe from QMUL said, “We already know from earlier studies that high blood pressure is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Finding more genetic regions associated with the condition allows us to map and understand new biological pathways through which the disease develops, and also highlight potential new therapeutic targets. This could even reveal drugs that are already out there but may now potentially be used to treat hypertension.”


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