Genes affecting blood pressure change as children become adults

As children transform into adults some of the genes involved in controlling their blood pressure change as well, according to a study of more than 500 pairs of twins.

The study of black and white identical and fraternal twins showed that changes in gene expression between ages 14 and 18 accounted for up to one third of the blood pressure variation that occurred by age 18, says Dr. Harold Snieder, genetic epidemiologist at the Medical College of Georgia.

The findings are being presented March 4 in Denver during the 64th Annual Scientific Conference of the American Psychosomatic Society.

"We know this is a period of great change, between 14 and 18 years of age, as children are growing, hormones are raging and the stability of adulthood has not yet been reached," says Dr. Snieder. Those factors prompted him and his colleagues to look at what happens to blood pressure and related hemodynamics such as heart rate and how much blood the heart pumps with each beat near the beginning and end of the biologically tumultuous times.

Researchers left much-discussed obesity out of this equation, focusing instead on genes and environmental factors directly influencing blood pressure and hemodynamics. The huge twin cohort and some complex mathematical modeling made it possible to quantify the role of genetics.

They found genetics played a moderate to high role, explaining between 25 and 64 percent of the individual differences in blood pressure and hemodynamics, Dr. Snieder says. Genes also played a major role between 60 and 100 percent in the consistency they saw in the measures over the four-year period.

Most surprisingly, he says, was the emergence of novel genetic influences that accounted for up to a third of the total variation at age 18.

"A substantial part of the individual differences between the twins were due to new genetic effects between this period of age 14 and 18," says Dr. Snieder. "There are new genes bei

Contact: Toni Baker
Medical College of Georgia

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