New research carried out by Queen Mary University Hospital, London, has pinpointed 11 new DNA sequence variants in genes that have the ability to influence high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.

Worldwide, high blood pressure is estimated to cause around seven and a half million deaths per year, a figure which comprises roughly 12.8% of all deaths. Hypertension can lead to heart disease, stroke, and kidney and heart failure among other things. Known factors behind high blood pressure include genes and lifestyle, for example excessive salt intake and obesity. Risk of blood pressure also increases as we age and is especially prevalent in middle aged men, with women more likely to develop high blood pressure after the menopause. However genes are also believed to play a big part.

New research carried out by Queen Mary University Hospital, London, has pinpointed 11 new DNA sequence variants in genes that have the ability to influence high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. Researchers at Queen Mary have collaborated with leading scientists from The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the University Medical Center of Utrecht in the Netherlands.

Genes give new insights into blood pressure treatment

The large-scale international study was published on the 26th Feb 2014 in the American Journal of Human Genetics. The DNA of 87,736 individuals was examined to find the genetic variants that are associated with blood pressure traits. These sequence variants were then validated in a further 68,368 individuals, leading to the identification of 11 new genes. The new genes provide a new insight into the biology of blood pressure, an understanding which it is hoped will eventually allow us to develop new treatments for hypertension. The study also provides us with information regarding the existing use of drugs for heart disease.

Michael Barnes, Director of Bioinformatics, Barts in London, and team leader of the Queen Mary Hospital study commented: “By highlighting several existing drugs that target the proteins that influence high blood pressure regulation, our study creates a very real opportunity to fast-track new therapies for hypertension into the clinic”.

Blood pressure runs in the family

Researchers have been trying for some time to understand the genetic connection between high blood pressure and genes. It’s been long recognized that high blood pressure does tend to run in families. Hypertension is also more prevalent in African-Americans, who can develop the condition at an earlier age. And earlier research carried out by the NHLBI (National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute) confirmed that blood pressure does appear to have a significant genetic component.

If family members have high blood pressure it’s important to let your physician know, since this gives an indication that you may be in a higher risk group. Knowing this you can ensure you make the necessary lifestyle changes that can help you reduce your likelihood of developing the condition. By cutting back on salt and alcohol, getting more exercise and using blood-pressure lowering medications, readings can be reduced.

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