University of Alabama at Birmingham: Study refutes long-held belief that the Corin gene causes hypertension in African Americans

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For many years, the Corin gene was believed to be associated with high blood pressure in Black individuals. Now, a recent study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association involving researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham disputes that belief. The research team says it is a misconception that Corin gene variants are responsible for the high prevalence of hypertension in the African American community.

“Although we know there is a high prevalence of high blood pressure in the African American community, our research shows that Corin gene variants are not the cause,” said Pankaj Arora, M.D., a physician-scientist in UAB’s Division of Cardiovascular Disease. “There is still much work that needs to be done to fully understand why high blood pressure and poor cardiometabolic health is disproportionately higher among Black individuals.”

The Corin gene regulates the processing of heart hormones called natriuretic peptides that help regulate blood pressure. It was previously presumed that the Corin gene variants seen almost exclusively in those of African ancestry contributed to the higher prevalence of elevated blood pressure in this community. In a study involving more than 11,000 Black individuals, researchers found that being a carrier of the Corin gene variants was not associated with higher blood pressure levels and did not impact the circulating levels of the natriuretic peptides. They also found that there were no expression differences in natriuretic peptides in the heart tissue of individuals with and without the Corin gene variant.

“We know that hypertension results from numerous environmental factors, pervasive systemic health inequities and multiple social determinants of health that disproportionately impact the African American community,” said Vibhu Parcha, M.D., a clinical research fellow in the Division of Cardiovascular Diseases and the UAB Cardiogenomics Clinic. “It is unfair to simply blame this on the Corin gene. Our findings suggest that we must look elsewhere for the root causes of the high prevalence of hypertension in this community and find ways to mitigate those causes.”

Parcha says the scientific community has largely been unsuccessful in including Black individuals into genomic research, which has limited the understanding of the genetic determinants of cardiovascular health in Black individuals.

Research studies in the UAB Department of Medicine involving underrepresented communities help to advance the implementation of precision medicine — an approach of using one’s genetic information to guide their medical therapy. Using the latest advances in medicine, physician-scientists at the UAB Marnix E. Heersink School of Medicine are continuing to make UAB a center of excellence for precision cardiovascular medicine. At the UAB Cardiogenomics Clinic, a patient’s care team uses their genetic history to help develop a personalized cardiovascular treatment plan. UAB Cardiovascular Institute has been advancing the initiative for the inclusion of Black individuals in clinical research and helping improve its understanding of what drives the development of fatal cardiac illness in the Black community.

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