Research published by University of Leicester researchers in the top journal “Circulation” identifies a gene that affects blood pressure levels in the eneral population.
The results have come to light in the GRAPHIC study, funded by the British Heart Foundation. Over 450 families in Leicestershire took part in the study.
High blood pressure affects around three in ten adults in the UK and is one of the main causes of strokes and heart attacks. Risk factors for high blood pressure include being overweight and having too much salt in your diet. Genes are also important factors. The GRAPHIC study showed that variations in a gene called WNK1, which produces a protein in the human kidney, also affects blood pressure levels in the population at large.
The team of researchers at the University of Leicester was led by Professor Nilesh Samani and co-researchers Professor Paul Burton and Dr Martin Tobin. Professor Samani, British Heart Foundation Professor of Cardiology at the University of Leicester, commented: “High blood pressure is a common health problem that raises the risk of developing heart disease and stroke. For effective prevention and treatment we need to understand the root causes. The findings of our research represent an important step towards this goal. It implicates a gene that can now be a target for further analysis. This particular gene may interact with other factors such as a salt intake and could be a specific target for drug therapy. “
Professor Samani added: “I should like to express our sincere thanks to the families who have taken part, to the general practitioners who have assisted with the study and to the British Heart Foundation. Without their support, this work would not have been possible.”
Revision date: July 3, 2011
Last revised: by Janet A. Staessen, MD, PhD