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Blood pressure study reveals 500 new gene regions

Tuesday September 18th, 2018

The largest global genetic study of its kind has found more than 500 new gene regions that influence hypertension, it was announced last night.

The research, led by Queen Mary University of London and Imperial College London, triples the number of known blood pressure gene regions to more than 1,000.

It also means that almost a third of the estimated heritability for hypertension is now explained, the researchers say.

The study, published in Nature Genetics, involved more than one million participants and reveals a strong role of these genes in blood vessels, within the adrenal glands above the kidney, and in body fat.

Prior to this study however, the genetic architecture of blood pressure had not been well understood.

Professor Mark Caulfield, of Queen Mary University of London and director of the NIHR Barts Biomedical Research Centre, said: “This is the most major advance in blood pressure genetics to date.

“This provides us with many new insights into how our bodies regulate blood pressure, and has revealed several new opportunities for future drug development.”

Co-lead researcher Professor Paul Elliott from Imperial College London added: “Identifying these kinds of genetic signals will increasingly help us to split patients into groups based on their risk of disease. By identifying those patients who have the greatest underlying risk, we may be able to help them to change lifestyle factors which make them more likely to develop disease, as well as enabling doctors to provide them with targeted treatments earlier, reducing the burden of disease on the health service and increasing people’s quality of life.”

The study team, which included international researchers led by the NIHR Barts Biomedical Research Centre, a joint partnership between Queen Mary University of London and Barts Health NHS Trust, and Imperial College London School of Public Health, analysed the DNA of more than one million people, including almost 500,000 from the UK Biobank cohort, and cross-referenced the genetic information with their blood pressure data.

They compared the group with the highest genetic risk of high blood pressure with those in the lowest risk group and calculated that all the genetic variants were associated with having about a 13 mm Hg higher blood pressure, having 3.34 times the odds for increased risk of hypertension and 1.52 times the odds for increased risk of poor cardiovascular outcomes.

The team also found that some of the new blood pressure genes were already known to be associated with other diseases, such as the APOE gene.

Evangelos E, Warren H et al. Genetic analysis of over one million people identifies 535 novel loci for blood pressure. Nature Genetics September 2018; doi: 10.1038/s41588-018-0205-x

Tags: Genetics | Heart Health | UK News

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