Chennai: A gene mutation in an enzyme that is associated with heart diseases could be pushing up risk of hypertension among Indians, a city-based study has found.
The finding, scientists say, may help pharmaceutical companies discover a preventive or curative medicine for the high-risk disorder.
Researchers screened more than 2,500 people, healthy and hypertensive, in north and south India, before concluding that a mutation in MMP7 increases risk of hypertension in Indians by at least 1.6 times compared to those who don’t carry the mutation.
“This finding will help pharma companies develop a diagnosis that can predict people who are at risk.
Or in the long run, drug companies may develop a drug that can prevent or reduce MMP7 levels in the body,” said the study’s corresponding author Nitish Mahapatra, department of Biotechnology Bhupat and Jyoti Mehta School of Biosciences, IIT Madras. His study was published in the scientific journal Hypertension.
An earlier study has shown that knocking down MMP7 can reduce hypertension in rats. Structural changes in MMP7 gene, have been associated with coronary artery disease, acute myocardial infarction, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and several cancers.
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Nevertheless, the connection between variations in the MMP7 gene and hypertension has not been well-understood, he said.
Hypertension – a condition in which the long-term force of the blood against the artery walls is high enough to cause health problems, such as heart disease and stroke – is common among people in Tamil Nadu. Studies have shown that the disease is more common than diabetes mellitus, but is also related to rapid chances in lifestyle including high salt intake and lack of adequate physical exercise.
Blood pressure is determined both by the amount of blood the heart pumps and the amount of resistance to blood flow in the arteries.
Most Indians are prone to diabetes as their arteries are too narrow to take the blood flow from the heart, say cardiologists.
During the study, scientists studied the sequence of genomes in health individuals and among people with hypertension. During analysis scientists noticed changes in the promoter region of the gene – area of DNA where transcription of a gene is initiated.
“While we always knew this gene is associated with cancers and heart disease, we now have the evidence to show that this has been associated with hypertension as well,” Mahapatra said.
IIT-M collaborated with research agencies such as Translational Health Science and Technology, Faridabad, CSIR-Indian Institute of Chemical Biology, Kolkata and hospitals such as PGIMER-Chandigarh and Madras Medical Mission, Chennai for the study.