In the biggest ever genetic study on BP, co-funded by the Medical Research Council, National Institute for Health Research and British Heart Foundation, scientists have identified >500 new gene regions that may influence changes in BP.
Researchers at the Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) and Imperial College London analysed DNA of >1 million individuals, including ~500,000 from the UK Biobank cohort, and their genetic data were cross-referenced with their BP data.
The discovery of new gene regions now takes up the number of BP gene regions identified to >1000, which could hold the explanation for one-third of the estimated heritability for BP. The research also indicates that the influence of genes is not just restricted to blood vessels, but also within the adrenal glands and body fat.
Individuals with the highest genetic risk for high BP were compared with those having the lowest risk. All the genetic variants were found to be associated with a 13 mmHg rise in BP. Additionally, the odds for increased risk for hypertension and poor cardiovascular outcomes were 3.34 times and 1.52 higher, respectively.
"This provides us with many new insights into how our bodies regulate BP and has revealed several new opportunities for future drug development," said Professor Mark Caulfield, from QMUL. It may also be possible to determine an individual's genetic risk score for high BP in later life, he added.