African-American study finds 4 common genetic variants associated with blood pressure.

A landmark study has discovered four novel gene variations associated with blood pressure. The 19-site meta-analysis, involving nearly 30,000 African-Americans, also found that the set of genetic mutations are associated with blood pressure across other populations as well.

The study — the largest to-date of genetics and blood pressure in individuals of African ancestry, was conducted by the Continental Origins and Genetic Epidemiology Network (COGENT) consortium, including Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, Ohio.

So far, most gene discovery studies have involved people of European descent. Also, previous studies that did include individuals of African descent could not find any replicable genes associated with hypertension.

The new study, which was published in The American Journal of Human Genetics, involved a meta-analysis of 19 sites involving nearly 30,000 African-Americans. Another major find was that these four genetic mutations are also associated with blood pressure across other populations.

“In addition to their disproportionate suffering, hypertension occurs earlier in life for African-Americans compared to individuals of other ancestries. Therefore, it is important to study this population to better understand genetic susceptibility to hypertension,” commented Xiaofeng Zhu, PhD, epidemiology and biostatistics professor and co-senior author of the study.

“Although it is unknown how the genes regulate blood pressure,” Zhu added in a Case Western University press release, “our findings contribute to better understanding of blood pressure pathways that can lead to future development of drug target for hypertension and may guide therapy for clinical care.”

Experts estimate that genetics account for around 40-50 percent of a person’s susceptibility to hypertension. Other contributing factors include lifestyle, diet, and obesity. The statement added that “compared to Americans of European-ancestry, African-Americans’ increased hypertension prevalence contributes to a greater risk of stroke, coronary heart disease, and end-stage renal disease.”

The team has begun conducting additional research to determine whether the four genes respond to existing hypertension medications. Individuals typically respond differently to a given medication depending on which gene mutation they carry. The more information researchers gather, the greater opportunity clinicians will have to prescribe the drug that is most efficacious based on the patient’s specific mutation.


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