Study Finds Hypertension Gene
Researchers Discover Improved Treatment for Disease
A research team headed by two Harvard Medical School faculty members has isolated the gene responsible for a rare form of hypertension that develops at an early age.
Christian Fellow of Medicine Richard P. Lifton and Associate Professor of Medicine Robert G. Dluhy '62, both affiliated with the endocrinology department at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, and other workers have released a ground-breaking study that identified the first abnormal gene that causes high blood pressure.
The particular type of hypertension that the study examines, called glucocorticoid-remediable aldosteronism, is characterized by early development of high blood pressure--usually between the ages of 15 and 25--and overproduction of the hormone aldosterone, which leads to abnormal salt retention and low levels of potassium in blood.
Result of 'Collaborative Effort'
The study, reported yesterday in the current issue of the science journal Nature, was the result of a six to seven month "collaborative effort between a series of people with different levels of expertise," Dluhy said.
The study found that patients with this specific form of hypertension can be treated with glucocorticoids, a cortisone compound that blocks hormone production. This treatment is a step up from conventional hypertension medication, Dluhy said, because it is "directed at the adrenal gland, rather than lowering blood pressure unspecifically."
According to Dluhy, the prevalence of this disease is underestimated. Researchers hope to examine likely candidates with a strong family history of early high blood pressure, in addition to other symptoms, he said. "We're trying to find families at risk--then we'll know how common the disease is," said Dluhy.