UH involved in a breakthrough in blood pressure research

An international research team has identified eight genes which have a substantial impact on blood pressure. From the University of Helsinki, the research project was participated in by Professor Jaakko Tuomilehto’s research team.

Genes have impact on blood pressure

“This is a breakthrough. For the first time in history, we have found genes which have an impact on blood pressure regulation in the population,” says Tuomilehto.

The significance of genes for high blood pressure has been known for a long time. However, prior to this discovery, researchers have not found the genes that predispose individuals to high blood pressure, despite several attempts. In the future, the findings may well be used for improving the prevention and care of high blood pressure.

“High blood pressure can cause heart failure in some people, and a stroke for others. Our aim is to investigate whether these genes have an impact on the diseases people suffer from.”

High blood pressure is one of the most common issues in public health. The World Health Organisation has evaluated that of all risk factors concerning health, high blood pressure causes the largest number of premature deaths and morbidity in the world.
In Finland, over 500,000 receive medical treatment for high blood pressure, but many of those suffering from high blood pressure are not receiving medical treatment.

In genetic research, international cooperation is absolutely vital because the data required is very extensive. This study investigated 2.5 million gene locations, and the study material contained a total of 34,433 people of European origin. The results of the study have been published in the distinguished Nature Genetics journal.

“This is only the beginning. Next, we will expand the material and attempt to confirm more genes which predispose people to high blood pressure,” says Tuomilehto.

A joint UH and National Institute for Health and Welfare research team is also participating in the international cooperation. From elsewhere in Finland, researchers from the universities of Kuopio and Oulu are also participating. The research team consists of a total of 164 researchers from 93 research institutions based in Europe and the United States.

>> Research article on the Nature Genetics site

Text: Kati Puhakka
Foto: Veikko Somerpuro
Translation: AAC Noodi

14.5.2009
www.helsinki.fi/verkkotoimitus


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