AN Irish university has helped pin-point more than 20 genetic variants that influence the risk of high blood pressure.
Scientists at University College Cork (UCC) took part in the major international study that could lead to new ways of tackling high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke.
In total, 28 genetic variants were identified by pooling results from studies involving more than 200,000 people around the world.
The findings of the study have now been published in the world-renowned science journal 'Nature Genetics'.
"We do not know why most people with high blood pressure have got the condition, and our treatments reflect this," said Professor Brendan Buckley, of the Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics at UCC.
"By examining the differences in DNA sequences across the genomes of very large numbers of people, we sought to identify genes associated with blood pressure control."
The research also turned up a previously unknown association between high blood pressure, or hypertension, and an iron-overload condition called haemochromotosis.
UCC was one of 150 institutions worldwide that took part in the study, which included Harvard, Oxford and Leiden Universities.
Co-author Professor Aravinda Chakravarti, from Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions in the US, said: "A genetic risk score that adds up the effects of all of these variants shows that the more of these variants an individual has, the greater are his or her chances of having hypertension, left ventricular wall thickness, stroke and coronary artery disease."
The study focused on systolic and diastolic blood pressure, measures of blood pressure on and between heartbeats.
Related research by the same team found six additional genetic links to average arterial pressure and "pulse pressure" -- the difference between systolic and diastolic blood pressure. Those findings also appear in 'Nature Genetics'.