A University of Toledo researcher seeks to find the answers to how high blood pressure is inherited.
Thanks to a three-year, $231,000 grant from the American Heart Association, Dr. Sivarajan Kumarasamy, assistant professor in the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology and a member of UT’s Center for Hypertension and Personalized Medicine, is able to launch a new lab to continue research in identifying genetic biomarkers for hypertension and renal failure.Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a leading cause of death and disability in the United States and worldwide. As many as one in three people are hypertensive, whereby they are at an increased risk for heart attack, stroke and kidney failure. While it can be treated with medication, much remains to be learned about the reasons why some individuals are more likely to develop high blood pressure and kidney disease.
“Some lifestyle behaviors such as salt intake, smoking and physical inactivity put individuals at an increased risk of developing hypertension, but high blood pressure can also run in the family,” Kumarasamy said. “If your parents or other close blood relatives have had high blood pressure, you are more likely to develop it, too.”
His study explores the role a specific gene called Regulated Endocrine Specific Protein 18 (Resp18) plays in the development of hypertension and kidney failure. The function of this molecule is unknown, but using a cutting-edge genetically engineered rat mutant model of this gene, Kumarasamy has discovered a novel link between Resp18 and hypertension.
This new funding will allow him to further examine the molecular mechanism connecting this gene to blood pressure regulation and kidney disease.
“Preliminary results are promising that we can identify a biomarker,” he said. “I am grateful for the excellent opportunity provided by my mentor, Dr. Bina Joe, to study a piece of this genetic puzzle and begin my research career.”
The results of Kumarasamy’s study could be used to diagnose or predict hypertension or kidney defects. Long-term results of his research also could have implications for diabetes and other medical conditions related to renal failure and hypertension.
“Dr. Kumarasamy has been a postdoctoral trainee and a junior faculty member associated with my laboratory since 2009. Securing this Scientist Development Grant is not only a reflection of his training at UT, but an attestation from our peers at large that he is ready for an independent research career,” said Dr. Bina Joe, professor and chair of the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, and director of UT’s Hypertension and Personalized Medicine Center. “This funding will help advance his research and broaden our knowledge of how specific genes function in the context of hypertension.”
The American Heart Association sponsors Scientist Development Grants to support and encourage highly promising beginning investigators in cardiovascular and stroke research. UT’s Center for Hypertension and Personalized Medicine is the only comprehensive multidisciplinary hypertension research site in northwest Ohio. Its goal is to find alternative preventative and therapeutic strategies for hypertension and its associated diseases.