Genetic discoveries for blood pressure

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Genetic discoveries for blood pressure

A new study of the DNA of over 100,000 people has identified eight genes which may be at least partly responsible for the development of high blood pressure. Although the individual effect of each gene is modest, in combination they could have a very strong influence on a person’s blood pressure levels.

The study, co-authored by BPA trustee Professor Mark Caulfield and published online in the journal Nature Genetics, suggests that some of these genes may affect how the kidneys process salt, whereas others may affect how the blood vessels regulate blood pressure. Although in most people these genes will function effectively, in others they may have slight variations which cause them to work differently. Variations in how these genes work could account for rises in blood pressure.

Some of the genes identified in this study do not appear to be involved in the systems which current medical treatments use to lower blood pressure. So this research potentially opens the way for future new treatments for high blood pressure. However, much more research needs to be done to find out exactly how these genes influence blood pressure, and how they can be made to work to lower it.

Blood Pressure Association Executive Director Mike Rich said: "Understanding the causes of hypertension is vital if we are to make further progress in treating the condition.  As such, identifying these genes could be a real breakthrough and lead to the development of new medicines for the treatment of high blood pressure.  But this is for the future and will involve a great deal more research.  For now, people with high blood pressure should keep taking their medication and for those who feel they are at risk because of genetic or other factors they should ask their GP for a simple blood pressure measurement."

An audio podcast with Prof. Caulfield describing the study is available at

Source: Newton-Cheh C et a. Genome-wide association study identifies eight loci associated with blood pressure. Nature Genetics, May 2009. Online publication ahead of print.

Topics: Research, High Blood Pressure in the news, High blood pressure

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