16 new gene regions that impact on blood pressure discovered

16 new gene regions that impact on blood pressure discovered

British, European and American researchers have discovered 16 new gene regions that play key roles in blood pressure levels, according to an article published in Nature Genetics and Nature. The articles were published by the International Consortium for Blood Pressure Genome-Wide Association Studies. The authors say their breakthrough represents an enormous step forward in our understanding of how inheritable factors impact on people's blood pressure.

The scientists added that their finding should help create potential new targeted therapies for the treatment and prevention of hypertension, stroke and heart disease - the biggest causes of death around the world.

European and American researchers led an international study which included 351 scientists from 24 different countries worldwide. They gathered data on 270,000 individuals to determine what genetic variations in each person's DNA might be linked to blood pressure variations (low and high blood pressure).

The scientists were able to identify 16 new gene regions which play a role in regulating blood pressure levels. They also confirmed another 12 gene regions which researchers at the Barts and London Medical School had previously identified.

They then examined the 28 gene regions to see what effects their combinations might have on people's risk of developing coronary heart disease, hypertension (high blood pressure), stroke, and structural heart changes.

They found that the combined effects of these variations were similar to the effects standard blood pressure lowering medications have on blood pressure. Notably, they also observed that their genetic effects on blood pressure levels were similar in individuals of African, South Asian, East Asian and European ancestries.

The authors explained that the factors which impact on blood pressure - a combination of lifestyle and genetics - have been, until now, difficult to identify accurately. Over one billion people globally suffer from hypertension. It does not take much of an increase in blood pressure to raise the risk of heart attack and stroke, they added.

President of the British Hypertension Society, Professor Mark Caulfield, said:

"High blood pressure affects a quarter of the adult population in the UK. These new gene regions we report today offer a major leap forward in our understanding of the inherited influences on blood pressure and offer new potential avenues for treatment which is particularly welcome for those who do not achieve optimal blood pressure control."

Professor Patricia Munroe, from Barts and The London Medical School, said:

"This large multicentre collaboration has yielded many new genes for blood pressure, determining which gene and their function will improve our understanding of the basic architecture of hypertension, and should facilitate new therapeutic drug development."

Dr Toby Johnson said:

"There were enormous challenges to overcome in collecting and analysing the amount of data we needed for this study. Our discoveries illustrate the power of international collaborative research."

Related study, published in Nature Genetics

Louise Wain and Martin Tobin from the University of Leicester, and Paul Elliott from Imperial College London, wrote about gene regions identified which influence pulse pressure (PP) and mean arterial pressure (MAP) - both of which can predict cardiovascular disease and hypertension.

They discovered two new gene regions for arterial pressure and four for pulse pressure - indicating new genetic mechanisms which bring about variations in blood pressure.

Louise Wain said:

"Our study shows the importance of looking at different measures of blood pressure in order to identify new genetic variants that affect levels of blood pressure in the population."

Paul Elliott said:

"Pulse pressure is a marker of the stiffness of the arteries that carry blood from the heart round the body. Our results could help understanding about the genetic mechanisms underlying relationships of pulse pressure with risk of heart disease and stroke."

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Section Issues On Medicine: Cardiology