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Surprising Interaction Between Genes, Gender, and Hypertension

In surprising results, a study of more than 1,200 patients with extremely low or high blood pressure by researchers at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) School of// Medicine showed that the influence of genes on blood pressure may vary based on gender.

“Sex is like a prism that refracts the effects of the gene very differently for men and women,” said Daniel T. O’Connor, M.D., UCSD professor of Medicine and Pharmacology, whose study is now on-line in advance of publication in the January issue of the journal Hypertension.

The research team found that the gene-by-sex interaction was the rule, not the exception in their study of a large, community-based sample of primary care patients in Southern California. They set out to discover whether gender interacts with genes in contributing to extremes of blood pressure, by looking at the medical records of 611 male and 656 female aged-matched, Caucasian patients whose blood pressure (BP) readings fell in the top and bottom five percent among 53,000 patients.

“Our findings show that specific genetic variations – which give rise to receptors that might be targets for ACE inhibitors or beta-blockers and other therapies used to treat hypertension – impact blood pressure differently in men and women. Knowing these genetic mutations may help us better diagnose hypertension and select the appropriate therapy,” said O’Connor, adding that these findings support that the most appropriate therapy might well depend on whether the patient is a man or a woman.

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a serious disease that can result in heart attacks, strokes or kidney failure. Scientists have known for some time that hypertension is a “heritable” condition that runs in families, though diet and other factors also contribute to high blood pressure. It is also known that there are differences in the occurrence of hypertension between men and women, and varied responses to treat
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