Researchers discover new genetic links to high blood pressure.

Hypertension has become a major global health burden due to its high prevalence and associated increase in risk of cardiovascular disease and premature death. It is well established that hypertension is determined by both genetic and environmental factors and their complex interactions.

Over the last decade, several strategies have been developed to dissect genetic determinants of hypertension. Of these, the most successful have been studies that identified rare mendelian syndromes in which a single gene mutation causes high blood pressure. The attempts to identify a group of group of genes that together contribute to hypertension, have been less successful.

Researchers at Tulane University’s Department of Epidemiology, New Orleans, have now conducted a large-scale meta-analyses of genome-wide association studies (GWAS) ― an examination of many common genetic variants in different individuals to see if any variant is associated with a trait. Their research, titled “Progress and Future Aspects in Genetics of Human Hypertension,” appears in the latest Current Hypertension Reports.

The team, which included Qi Zhao, MD PhD and Research Assistant Professor, said that they have “successfully identified a total of 38 loci, which achieved genome-wide significance for their association with blood pressure.” Loci refers to the actual position of a gene on a chromosome.

They added that although the capability of hypertension being inherited explained by these loci is very limited, GWAS meta-analyses have caused “renewed optimism” in the rapidly moving field of hypertension genetic research. It also highlights novel pathways influencing blood pressure and explaining genetic mechanisms underlying its control. They hope that their findings can be translated into hypertension treatment and prevention in the future.

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