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Genes Yield Clues to High Blood Pressure
Date:5/11/2009

Each bit of DNA offers insights to better treatments, scientists say

SUNDAY, May 10 (HealthDay News) -- Two major international studies have identified what researchers describe as a treasure trove of genes linked to high blood pressure.

"In one fell swoop, to find so many genes related to blood pressure is one great opportunity," said the lead author of one of the studies, Dr. Christopher Newton-Cheh, an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. His team analyzed genetic data from 130,000 individuals collected at 93 centers across the United States and Europe.

"These findings advance the biology of blood pressure regulation," added Dr. Daniel Levy, director of the U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. He led a second study that gathered genetic data on 29,000 people in the United States and elsewhere. The new findings "could lead to better predictions of who is likely to develop hypertension," he said.

The studies appear simultaneously in the May 10 issue of Nature Genetics and at the American Society on Hypertension annual meeting, in San Francisco.

Hypertension -- high blood pressure -- is a leading risk factor for cardiovascular problems such as heart attack and stroke. The ultimate hope is that the research effort will lead to new treatments aimed at specific genes, Newton-Cheh said.

"It is still very difficult to treat high blood pressure and new leads for new genes that we can target are sorely needed," he said.

In both studies, the researchers looked at variations in the sequences of DNA molecules that make up the human genome. They focused on what are formally called single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) associated with blood pressure differences.

In all, 13 gene regions not previously associated with blood pressure were identified in the two studies, Newton-Cheh said. "Several of their gene regions overlap with ours," he said. "F
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