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Large Genetic Study Identifies New Treatment Targets for High Blood Pressure

THE RESULTS of a large genetic study have validated 107 genes linked to high blood pressure, which could help scientists to identify at-risk patients and develop new drug treatments.

Researchers have suggested that these findings could allow doctors to target medication for patients at a higher risk of hypertension and to advise on appropriate lifestyle changes.

Dr Helen Warren, Queen Mary University of London, London, UK, and the team analysed 9.8 million genetic variants from 420,000 participants involved with the UK Biobank. They cross-referenced these variants with the participants’ blood pressure data and found that many of the 107 new gene regions identified were expressed in high levels in blood vessels and cardiovascular tissue.

A risk score was also developed by the team which could be used to predict an increased risk of stroke and heart disease later in life. The higher the score, the more likely a patient was to have high blood pressure by the age of 50. Those on the higher end of the scale had 10 mmHg higher blood pressure compared to those on the lower end.

The opportunity to analyse genetic variants and predict patient risk of hypertension could allow lifestyle interventions to be developed earlier in the patient’s life. “Ultimately, blood pressure in the general UK population is too high, and we encourage everyone to maintain healthy lifestyles by eating properly and exercising enough, as this will reduce the risk of all sorts of diseases,” Prof Paul Elliott, Imperial College London, London, UK, and one of the researchers of the study said. “However, our new findings may help doctors to identify earlier those who are most at risk of high blood pressure in mid-life and intervene to prevent that occurring.”

Dr Warren also added: “This analysis highlights the benefits of using very large studies, such as UK Biobank, with high quality data where all participants have had measurements done in exactly the same way, to enable the discovery of many new genetic signals associated with raised blood pressure.”

Jack Redden, Reporter

Keywords: Biobank, heart disease, High Blood Pressure, Hypertension, Stroke