Study identifies four genetic variants associated with hypertension in African Americans

Sept. 12, 2013

A landmark study has discovered four novel gene variations which are associated with blood pressure. The 19-site meta-analysis, involving nearly 30,000 African Americans, also found that the set of genetic mutations is associated with blood pressure across other populations. The study appears in The American Journal of Human Genetics.

The research was conducted by the Continental Origins and Genetic Epidemiology Network (COGENT) consortium, which is the largest genome-wide association study of blood pressure in individuals of African ancestry. Most gene discovery studies to date have been performed using individuals of European ancestry. Previous genome-wide association studies using samples from individuals of African descent failed to detect any replicable genes associated with blood pressure.

“Hypertension occurs earlier in life for African Americans compared to individuals of other ancestries,” explains Xiaofeng Zhu, PhD, co-senior author of the paper. “Therefore, it is important to study this population to better understand genetic susceptibility to hypertension.”

The next phase of the study involving the newly discovered gene mutations will investigate their function, using human blood samples at the molecular level. Zhu and colleagues have begun conducting additional research to determine whether the genes respond to existing hypertension medications. Individuals typically respond differently to a given medication, depending on which gene mutation they carry. The research findings do not have immediate implications for treatment, but information that researchers gather may enhance the ability of clinicians to prescribe the drug that is most efficacious based on a patient’s specific mutation. Read the study abstract, with figures and tables.