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Release: Aug. 28, 2000

UI researchers get $1.8 million NIH grant to study blood pressure gene

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- University of Iowa researchers have been awarded a five-year, $1.8 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to study the regulation of a gene that controls blood pressure.

Curt D. Sigmund, Ph.D., UI associate professor of internal medicine, and physiology and biophysics, will lead the study, which seeks to understand how a gene called renin is activated in the body and how abnormalities in its activation may cause hypertension, or high blood pressure. Sigmund is also director of the UI Center on Functional Genomics of Hypertension.

Genes are the templates for proteins. When the renin gene is expressed, or activated, its protein is made and plays a key role in the body's blood pressure control system. Like all genes, renin is subjected to forces in the body and physiological cues that cause it to produce different amounts of its protein product at different times and places in the body.

"We will focus our attention on a DNA sequence called an "enhancer" that has been implicated by my research group to play a major role in regulating expression of the renin gene," Sigmund said.

The researchers plan to determine whether the enhancer sequence is important for renin expression and identify factors that bind to the enhancer thereby controlling renin expression. The identification of factors regulating the gene may eventually lead to novel drug targets to control hypertension in humans.

"By understanding how this gene is regulated in normal healthy individuals, we may be able to better understand how inappropriate regulation of the gene causes hypertension," said Sigmund. "This knowledge could be put to use to improve treatment of this condition."

 

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