Researchers identified new sites in the human genome linked to hypertension. The discovery could help develop new strategies to treat the condition as well as others associated with it, such as chronic kidney disease (CKD).
The results were published in three scientific articles back to back in the leading journal Nature Genetics.
“Our work greatly extends the number of known blood-pressure-associated loci and demonstrates their potential relevance to cardiovascular disease,” Dr. Daniel Chasman, associate geneticist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, associate professor at Harvard Medical School, and senior author of one of the articles, said in a press release.
“These new blood pressure studies have suddenly expanded what’s known about biological basis of hypertension, and may help guide us and others to new ways to detect, manage and treat this all-too common risk factor for serious health problems, such as heart attack and stroke,” he said.
The scientists collected genomic data at specific sites from more than 146,000 individuals using the Human Exome BeadChip, which carries genetic information from different individuals of European, African, and Hispanic decent. They then verified the data against information obtained from a U.K.-based consortium, reaching a total of more than 325,000 people.
The scientists identified 31 new loci (specific positions on the genome) associated with high blood pressure. They noted that, while some of these new loci were associated with genes already known to be involved in high blood pressure, 14 of them were associated with genes that were not previously thought to be involved. These included genes related to immune disease, diabetes, and kidney function, suggesting that there may be a previously unknown link between high blood pressure and other conditions such as type 1 and type 2 diabetes, Crohn’s disease, and lupus.
“The overlap of these genetic variants with immunologic and metabolic diseases suggests that there may be common underlying causes for elevated blood pressure and other metabolic risk factors,” Chasman said. “This may also serve as a starting point for finding therapies that can more broadly treat hypertension to reduce cardiovascular risk.”
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 70 million people in America have high blood pressure, which puts them at risk of a number of diseases, including cardiovascular disease and CKD.
The large consortium of collaborating researchers involved in these three studies are members of the CHARGE (The Cohorts for Heart and Aging Research in Genomic Epidemiology) consortium, which was formed to facilitate genome-wide association studies and is funded by the U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI).
The links to the original research articles can be found below:
- The genetics of blood pressure regulation and its target organs from association studies in 342,415 individuals
- Trans-ancestry meta-analyses identify rare and common variants associated with blood pressure and hypertension
- Meta-analysis identifies common and rare variants influencing blood pressure and overlapping with metabolic trait loci