Genes clue to problem of high blood pressure

New genes linked to high blood pressure – a condition that causes more than seven million deaths worldwide each year – have been uncovered by UK scientists.

Professor Patricia Munroe, from Queen Mary, University of London, said the new genes were an important discovery in tackling heart disease and stroke.

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University researchers analysed blood pressure measurements from 25,000 people and looked at the genes that might be involved in influencing high blood pressure. They identified a total of five new genetic variants associated with blood pressure.

Dr Toby Johnson said: “We have taken another step towards understanding the biological mechanisms that affect blood pressure. Ultimately, this knowledge can lead to developing new treatments, or to help identify individuals who would benefit most from the treatments already available.”

One of the genes identified was involved in the production of nitric oxide, a small molecule studied extensively by another group for its blood pressure-lowering benefits. Dr Johnson said: “The specific genetic variant identified in our study may affect how the nitric oxide-producing gene is turned on and off. In principle, this could be used to develop alternative therapies for lowering blood pressure.”