Aim: To assess the feasibility and utility of a new method to identify factors associated with increased predisposition to high blood pressure in young people.
Subjects: Eight hundred and sixty-four people aged 16-24 years and their parents.
Setting: Ladywell Medical Centre, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK.
Method: Blood pressure was measured in 864 young adults and in both of their parents. Four groups of approximately 50 offspring were selected from the corners of a scatter diagram, with offspring blood pressure scores on one axis and combined parental blood pressure scores on the other. Blood and urine samples were taken for biochemical and genetic analyses.
Results: Two groups of offspring had parents with high blood pressure and two groups had parents with low blood pressure. When parental blood pressure was low, comparison of offspring with high and low blood pressure revealed significantly higher mean body mass index in offspring with high blood pressure, but no significant elevation of biochemical or hormonal variables. When parental blood pressure was high, comparison of offspring with high and low blood pressure also revealed a significant difference in body mass index, but in addition, offspring with high blood pressure and high parental blood pressure had higher levels of angiotensinogen, cortisol and 18-OH corticosterone. Restriction fragment length polymorphism analysis revealed that 27% of offspring at the greatest genetic risk (high personal and parental blood pressure) were homozygous for the larger allele of the glucocorticoid receptor gene compared with only 9% of those at lowest genetic risk (low personal and parental blood pressure).
Conclusion: The combined biochemical and genetic findings suggest that abnormalities of glucocorticoid metabolism and the renin-angiotensin system may help to explain genetic predisposition to high blood pressure. The new sampling method is practicable and could be applied to the investigation of other continuously distributed variables which show familial aggregation.