Researchers solve big mystery of high blood pressure

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Imagine your DNA as a massive cookbook for your body. This cookbook contains recipes (coding DNA) that directly tell your body how to function, and it also has lots of blank pages (non-coding DNA) in between the recipes.

For the longest time, people believed these blank pages were just filler, earning them the nickname “junk DNA.”

However, recent research is showing us that these parts of our DNA might hold secrets we never imagined, especially when it comes to something as common as blood pressure.

Blood pressure is the term we use to describe the force that our blood exerts on the walls of our blood vessels. When this force is too high over a long period, it’s known as hypertension, a condition that affects over a billion people worldwide and can lead to serious heart issues.

Scientists at SickKids Hospital in Canada, led by Dr. Philipp Maass, embarked on an intriguing investigation. They turned their attention to the non-coding, or “junk,” DNA, suspecting that it might play a role in regulating blood pressure.

Their hunch was that, while this DNA doesn’t produce proteins like the coding DNA does, it might still influence the body in other significant ways.

Through their research, they discovered tiny changes in the non-coding DNA, known as ‘variants,’ which appeared to be linked to high blood pressure.

It was as if they’d found secret messages hidden in the blank pages of our DNA cookbook, influencing how loud or quiet certain ‘recipes’ for blood pressure regulation should be.

To explore these variants further, the team used a technique called massively parallel reporter assay (MPRA), examining over 4,600 variants.

This allowed them to see which of these variants were near genes that control blood pressure, acting like a volume dial for these genes.

The result of their exhaustive research was akin to creating a detailed map of how non-coding DNA influences blood pressure.

This breakthrough doesn’t just deepen our understanding of how blood pressure works; it opens up new avenues for exploring other aspects of human health and disease.

This discovery is particularly exciting because it paves the way for ‘Precision Child Health’—a tailored approach to healthcare where treatments and preventive measures can be customized for the individual’s genetic makeup.

By understanding the variants in non-coding DNA, doctors might better predict who is at risk for developing high blood pressure and intervene earlier.

The work done by Dr. Maass and his team is a powerful reminder that there’s much more to our DNA than meets the eye. What we once thought of as “junk” could actually be full of invaluable information about our health.

This study, published in Cell Genomics, not only challenges our perceptions of non-coding DNA but also highlights the endless possibilities for future research and the potential for innovative treatments and preventive strategies in healthcare.

If you care about high blood pressure, please read studies about potatoes and high blood pressure, and top 10 choices for a blood pressure-friendly diet

For more information about high blood pressure, please see recent studies about impact of vitamins on high blood pressure you need to know, and the powerful link between high blood pressure and a potassium-rich diet.

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