News | January 04, 2007

Gender Affects Genes' Influence on Blood Pressure

Jan. 5, 2007 - Variations in genes that play a role in regulating heart rate and kidney function appear to affect blood pressure differently in men and women, new research suggests. This could have important implications for selecting blood pressure-lowering medications.

"Sex is like a prism that refracts the effects of the gene very differently for men and women," Dr. Daniel T. O'Connor, from the University of California at San Diego, said in a university statement.

"Our findings show that specific genetic variations -- which give rise to receptors that might be targets for ACE inhibitors or beta-blockers and other therapies used to treat hypertension -- impact blood pressure differently in men and women," O'Connor noted.

The findings, reported in the medical journal Hypertension, stem from a study of 611 male and 656 female age-matched white Americans, including those with low and high blood pressures.

Analysis of 50 genetic variations revealed six that significantly influenced blood pressure and that also differed by gender.

Specifically, genetic variants of the beta-1 and the alpha-2A adrenergic receptors affected blood pressure in women, whereas variants of the beta-2 adrenergic receptor and the gene for a protein called angiotensinogen influenced blood pressure in men.

"Further studies may help scientists understand what genetic variables can predict the likelihood of a patient suffering from hypertension," O'Connor added.

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