NIH scientists link genetics to risk of high blood pressure among blacks
Variants in the gene ARMC5 may be associated with high blood pressure among blacks, according to a National Institutes of Health study led by researchers at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). The study team identified 17 variants in the ARMC5 gene that were associated with high blood pressure by analyzing genetic research databases that include those of African descent. The study is published in the July 3, 2019, issue of the Journal of the American Heart Association.
“High blood pressure increases a person’s risk for heart disease and stroke,” said Constantine A. Stratakis, M.D., D. Sc., NICHD Scientific Director and the study’s senior author. “The condition is more common among blacks, who also tend to get it at a younger age than whites do, and we are studying the underlying causes of this health disparity.”
The researchers identified 17 variants of ARMC5 that were associated with blood pressure among blacks. One variant, called rs116201073, was “protective” and associated with lower blood pressure. It was more common than the others, and it appeared limited to people of African descent, as it is found only in Africans in the international 1000 Genomes Project.
The researchers also reconstructed the rs116201073 variant in cell lines and found that it was more active than other variants of the ARMC5 gene. However, the exact function of the ARMC5gene is unclear, and more work is needed to understand what the gene does and how variants may protect or predispose a person to high blood pressure.
“Collectively, our research suggests that ARMC5 may play an important role in regulating blood pressure in blacks,” said Mihail Zilbermint, M.D., one of the lead authors of the study. “Because the gene is linked to primary aldosteronism, ARMC5 may be involved in how the adrenal glands function and with the hormones that are important for regulating blood pressure.”
Funding for the study was provided by NICHD. Other authors are from the National Human Genome Research Institute, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, UCSF and the Uniform Services University.