Research shows important cause of heart disease, high blood pressure

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A comprehensive study by scientists at St George’s and other institutions has uncovered crucial genetic factors that influence the characteristics of blood vessels in the eye, providing new insights into heart health and blood pressure.

The eyes offer a unique view into a person’s health. High-resolution digital imaging of the eye, particularly the retina, allows medical professionals to observe blood vessels and nerves closely.

Past research has shown that the size and shape of retinal blood vessels are linked to various health conditions like high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.

Using artificial intelligence (AI), the team distinguished between types of blood vessels and measured their width and curvature. They then conducted a genome-wide association study (GWAS) on the genetic data of participants.

The study identified 119 genetic regions related to the shape and size of retinal blood vessels, with 89 areas linked to arterial twisting. This is more than any previous research in this field.

Impact on Blood Pressure and Heart Health

The study found that arterial twisting in the retina is highly genetically determined. An increase in this twisting correlated with higher diastolic blood pressure and a greater risk of heart disease.

These genetic insights could be crucial for developing new treatments targeting heart health and blood pressure.

The Role of Genetics in Eye and Heart Health

The research underscores the importance of genetics in determining the physical traits of retinal blood vessels.

By understanding these genetic factors, scientists can better grasp how certain eye characteristics relate to broader health issues, particularly those concerning the heart and blood pressure.

This groundbreaking study opens doors for future research and potential treatments, emphasizing the intricate connection between our eyes and overall health.

The findings of this study, led by Professor Christopher Owen and published in PLOS Genetics, demonstrate the significant impact of genetic factors on the health of blood vessels in the eye and their link to systemic health conditions.

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