A Children's Hospital researcher collaborated with an international study team that discovered 11 novel genetic signals associated with blood pressure levels and confirmed 27 previously discovered genetic signals.

Most of the new genetic signals that Brendan J. Keating, DPhil, a geneticist with The Center for Applied Genomics (CAG) at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, and the study's co-authors identified are "druggable" targets that offer the possibility of expedited pharmaceutical development of therapeutics for high blood pressure.

The researchers performed a discovery analysis of DNA from more than 87,000 individuals of European ancestry. They assessed their initial findings in a replication test, using an independent set of another 68,000 individuals. Then they used pharmacological databases to analyze potential targets in the discovered genetic region and found that gene products associated with 10 of the genes were predicted to be targets for small-molecule drugs. In fact, two genes - KCNJ11 and NQO1 - are currently targeted by existing approved drugs.

"If clinicians can reposition exiting drugs to treat some patients with hypertension, this will save significant time in drug development," Dr. Keating said.

More research is needed to determine which drug candidates are effective against hypertension, possibly in personalized treatments based on patients' genetic makeup, he added.

In addition to his position at CHOP, Dr. Keating is a faculty member of the Department of Pediatrics and the Division of Transplantation in the Department of Surgery in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.

For this study, Dr. Keating collaborated with two senior co-authors, Folkert W. Asselbergs, MD, PhD, of University Medical Center Utrecht, the Netherlands, and Patricia B. Munroe, PhD, of Queen Mary University, London, U.K. Other study co-authors were from the U.S., the U.K., the Netherlands, Canada, Germany, Sweden, and Ireland. The study appeared online in the American Journal of Human Genetics.