Hypertension in African Americans linked to two genomic regions

St. Louis, Feb. 9, 2005 -- A first-of-its-kind application of a novel statistical method of analysis to African Americans has identified regions on chromosomes 6 and 21 that likely harbor genes contributing to high blood pressure in that group. The novel statistical method, called admixture mapping, narrowed the search for genes related to hypertension, bringing researchers and doctors closer to finding more effective treatments.

Researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine, Loyola University Medical Center and Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, among others, collaboratively conducted the study, which will be published in the February issue of Nature Genetics and is available online.

In the U.S., 65 million people have high blood pressure, but it is found more often in African Americans than other groups. African Americans suffer from earlier and more severe hypertension and have a higher rate of death from stroke, heart disease, and kidney failure as a result.

The causes of hypertension are complex. Diet, exercise and stress contribute, but so do genetic factors. "It wouldn't be surprising if hypertension involved dozens of genes," says Dabeeru C. Rao, Ph.D., director of the Division of Biostatistics and one of the report's authors. "Unfortunately, in the past there have been conflicting reports about genes linked to the condition."

In a fresh approach to the problem, the researchers applied a genome-wide scan that compared how often genetic variations occur in people of African or European descent to how often they occur in African Americans.

As a group, African Americans can trace their ancestry largely to populations from both Africa and Europe. "The statistical technique we used is ideal for groups who have a trait with a higher occurrence--such as hypertension in African Americans--and who stem from two sets of ancestral populations that have differing genetic variations," Rao s

Contact: Gwen Ericson
Washington University School of Medicine

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