Study examines genetic basis for blood pressure, risk for hypertension

03:18 PM May 01, 2024 | PTI |

More than 2,000 regions on the human genome have been found to influence an individual’s blood pressure and, in turn, their risk of developing hypertension, according to a new research.


Genomics is the study of an individual’s entire genetic makeup, including the inter-relationships between genes, which are segments forming DNA that resides inside human cells.

Data from more than a million people were analysed to discover regions on the genome, including over a 100 new ones, linked to blood pressure. The international study, led by Queen Mary University of London, UK, is published in the journal Nature Genetics.

”Our study found additional genomic locations that together explain a much larger part of the genetic differences in people’s blood pressure. Knowing a person’s risk for developing hypertension could lead to tailored treatments, which are more likely to be effective,” first author Jacob Keaton, staff scientist at the National Human Genome Research Institute’s (NHGRI), US, said.

Several of the newly discovered genome locations were found to be within genes important for iron metabolism.


The researchers said this result confirmed previous findings that high levels of accumulated iron could contribute to developing cardiovascular disease.

High blood pressure is known to run in families, which points to heredity. This means that a genetic component is involved in one developing the condition, in addition to environmental conditions, such as consuming diets high on salt, lack of exercise, smoking and stress, the team explained.

A consistently high blood pressure can damage the heart and blood vessels, increasing a person’s risk for cardiovascular disease, stroke and other conditions.

As part of their analysis, the researchers calculated a polygenic risk score to predict an individual’s blood pressure and risk for hypertension. The score is arrived at by considering all of the person’s genomic variants conferring risk for hypertension.

The team said the scores reveal clinically meaningful differences between people’s blood pressure.

”We are making our polygenic risk scores data publicly available. There are many different potential applications of genetic risk scores, so it will be exciting to see how our blood pressure scores can be used to address more clinically relevant questions in the future,” last author Helen Warren, a senior lecturer in statistical genetics at Queen Mary University of London, said.

”Our results provide new resources for understanding biological mechanisms and importantly new polygenic risk scores for early identification and stratification of people at risk for cardiovascular diseases,” Patricia Munroe, a professor of molecular medicine at Queen Mary University of London, said.

”This large study builds on over 18 years of blood pressure GWAS research,” senior author Munroe said. A GWAS — genome-wide association study — is a research approach that makes use of statistics to identify genomic variants associated with a risk for a disease.

In this study, the data came from four datasets from GWAS of blood pressure and hypertension, including the UK Biobank and the International Consortium for Blood Pressure.


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