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Media Availability: Researchers Discover New Genetic Markers for Blood Pressure

Large NIH-supported study may lead to fresh approaches to treating hypertension

For Immediate Release:
September 12, 2016

WHAT: A team of researchers led by scientists from the Framingham Heart Study has discovered 31 new genetic markers it says are associated with blood pressure. The large-scale study provides new insight into the genetic underpinnings of high blood pressure and researchers say it could lead to better ways to treat the disease. Their study was published in Nature Genetics.

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a major risk factor for heart disease, kidney disease, and early death. Researchers have known for years that high blood pressure often runs in families and that other factors also contribute to the condition, including high sodium intake, lack of exercise, obesity, and the use of certain prescription medicines. But researchers know little about the genetic markers—genes or short sequences of DNA—specifically associated with blood pressure.    

In the current study, scientists obtained genetic data from more than 330,000 people from around the globe, including healthy individuals and those with hypertension.  Using sophisticated analytical methods, the researchers identified 31 previously unknown markers linked to blood pressure. Some of the genetic factors also appear to be associated with diabetes and kidney disease, they say. Their findings may offer clues to potential strategies for treating hypertension and preventing its complications.

The research team was led by scientists from the Framingham Heart Study in collaboration with over 200 investigators from 80 organizations.  The study was funded by multiple organizations, including the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

WHO: Daniel Levy, M.D., Director, Framingham Heart Study, NHLBI, is available to comment on the findings and implications of this research.

CONTACT: For more information or to schedule an interview, please contact the NHLBI Office of Science Policy, Engagement, Education, and Communications at 301-496-5449 or nhlbi_news@nhlbi.nih.gov (link sends e-mail).