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Scientists identify blood pressure gene
Blood pressure
Gene may be responsible for controlling blood pressure
Scientists have identified a gene that appears to play a crucial role in controlling the way the body breaks down sugar and maintains a healthy blood pressure.

They believe the breakthrough could eventually lead to the development of new drugs to treat patients suffering from some forms of high blood pressure (hypertension).

Stephen O┐Rahilly, Professor of Metabolic Medicine, and Krishna Chatterjee, Professor of Endocrinology, at the University of Cambridge, made their discovery by studying families who suffer from a rare form of diabetes.

Diabetics often suffer from obesity and hypertension caused by a failure to control levels of glucose (sugar) in the blood. Blood sugar levels are usually controlled by the hormone insulin.

The researchers found that families with the disease carry two mutated versions of a gene called PPAR gamma.

Drug breakthrough

Professor O┐Rahilly said: "Several years ago, a new class of drugs that lower blood sugar levels by allowing insulin to work more efficiently was discovered.

"How these drugs, known as thiazololidinediones (TZDs), worked was a mystery until the observation, in 1995, by scientists at Glaxo Wellcome, that they bind to and activate PPAR gamma.

"But scientists still didn't know whether PPAR gamma had a normal role in controlling metabolism.

"By finding that people who have this defective gene also have both diabetes and hypertension, we have shown that PPAR gamma is critically involved in the control of both metabolism and blood pressure."

The next steps in the project will be to find out whether this gene defect occurs more often in other unusual cases of early onset diabetes and high blood pressure.

The team also hope to explain the precise mechanism by which PPAR gamma enhances insulin action - at both tissue and cellular level.

The research is published in the journal Nature.

See also:

28 Sep 99 | Health
09 Feb 99 | Medical notes
14 May 99 | Health
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