Global Study Reveals New Hypertension and Blood Pressure Genes

Friday, October 28, 2016

Thirty-one new gene locations linked with blood pressure have been identified in one of the largest genetic studies of hypertension and blood pressure to date, with valuable input from the University of Washington School of Public Health.

The study, published online Sept. 12 in Nature Genetics, extends the number of known gene locations linked with blood pressure to more than 90 and demonstrates their potential relevance to cardiovascular disease.

“These discoveries give us strong hints about where to look to better explain why some people have higher and lower blood pressure than we expect based on already-known risk factors,” said Kenneth Rice, a co-author of the study and associate professor in the Department of Biostatistics at the School. “In subsequent work, we expect researchers will take advantage of this knowledge to design new treatments, which will improve the lives of people with blood pressure-related conditions.”

Another co-author, Bruce Psaty, professor in the Department of Epidemiology and adjunct professor in the Department of Health Services at the School, adds, “The results of this large collaborative effort have identified proteins such as NPR1, or natriuretic peptide receptor 1, as potential targets for new therapies for high blood pressure.” Psaty is also a professor of general internal medicine at the UW and he co-directs the University’s Cardiovascular Health Research Unit (CHRU).

Nearly 100 researchers across multiple, international consortia collaborated to study data of more than 327,000 individuals genotyped for blood pressure and hypertension.

Researchers identified individual common variants at 31 new gene locations, as well as multiple rare variants within three new genes, two of which overlapped with the former discovery. The researchers also confirmed common variants at 39 previously reported locations. The new gene locations are linked to metabolic risk factors such as coronary heart disease, stroke, heart failure, diabetes, high blood pressure and high blood cholesterol.

The software used for the meta-analyses was originally developed at the UW by Arend (Arie) Voorman, who earned a PhD in biostatistics in 2014; Jennifer Brody, a research scientist in the CHRU; and Thomas Lumley, an affiliate professor of biostatistics.

Joshua Bis, a research scientist in the CHRU, and Alex Reiner, a research professor in epidemiology, were also authors of the paper.