To understand our story, we need to talk about DNA. It’s like a blueprint that tells our body how to function.
In our DNA we have something called genes that give specific instructions for everything in our body, like the color of our eyes or how tall we get.
Our DNA is made up of two types: coding DNA and non-coding DNA. Think of it like a recipe book, where the coding DNA is the recipes you use and the non-coding DNA is the blank pages in between.
For a long time it was thought that those blank pages or the non-coding DNA did nothing important. They called it “junk DNA”.
Now let’s think about blood pressure.
It’s like the force of your blood pushing against the walls of your blood vessels. When this force is too high for a long period of time, it is called high blood pressure.
High blood pressure is not good for us because it can cause heart problems. Over a billion people around the world have it!
The mission: solve the mystery of “junk DNA”.
Recently, scientists at a hospital in Canada called SickKids started looking at non-coding DNA. They thought that even if there weren’t any direct instructions on how to encode the DNA, it could still do something important.
The team, led by a scientist named Dr. Philipp Maass decided to examine non-coding DNA to see if it had anything to do with blood pressure.
The clues: variants and blood pressure
While doing their detective work, these scientists found something interesting.
They discovered small changes in the non-coding DNA, so-called “variants”, which appear to be linked to high blood pressure. It was like finding hidden notes in the blank pages of our recipe book!
So the scientists decided to find out how these variants in the non-coding DNA might control blood pressure-related genes.
The investigation: Look at many, many variants
The scientists used a tool called the Massively Parallel Reporter Assay (MPRA) to examine over 4,600 variants in the non-coding DNA. That’s a lot of detective work!
Even though this non-coding DNA doesn’t make proteins, unlike coding DNA, the scientists found that many of the variants studied were genes linked to blood pressure regulation.
That means non-coding DNA might act like a volume control, telling those genes to be louder or quieter.
The results: a map of blood pressure regulation
After much hard work, the scientists found many clues in the non-coding DNA that could affect blood pressure.
It was like they made a map of all the hidden notes that control blood pressure genes in our recipe book.
This map not only helps us to better understand blood pressure. It can also be used as a guide to examine other things in our body, such as how we grow or why we get sick.
The future: personalized healthcare
The SickKids scientists are excited about their discovery. They believe this could be a step towards Precision Child Health.
That’s a big word that means providing each person with care that is specifically tailored to them. Knowing about these variants could help doctors identify who might be developing high blood pressure and be able to help them sooner.
In the end, the team proved that even the parts of our DNA we thought were ‘junk’ could hold important secrets about our health.
It’s a reminder that even things that seem unimportant at first glance can turn out to be very important!
If you care about blood pressure, please read studies about it how diets might help lower high blood pressureAnd 3 grams of omega-3 fatty acids per day keep high blood pressure in check.
The study was published in cell genomics.
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