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New study to understand blood pressure control

17 May 2021

Thanks to our funding, Dr Elizabeth Wan from University College London will start a new study to understand the pathways that control blood pressure and hopes to find new treatments.

In her fellowship grant, Elizabeth will study a kidney protein called SLC12A3, to work out how it is controlled, if new genes are involved, and if any changes are linked to blood pressure or heart health.

Dr Elizabeth Wan from University College London
Dr Elizabeth Wan from University College London

Understanding what causes high blood pressure

High blood pressure increases the risk of heart and kidney disease, but we do not fully understand what triggers it. By studying the pathways involved in genetic diseases that affect blood pressure, we may be able to shed light on how blood pressure is regulated.   

Two genetic diseases that affect blood pressure are Gitelman syndrome (low blood pressure) and Gordon syndrome (high blood pressure).  

Both of these diseases are caused by defects that alter the activity of SLC12A3: a protein in the kidney that reabsorbs salt from the urine back into the blood. Therefore, SLC12A3 is an important player in blood pressure control and scientists are investigating other molecules that may be involved in regulating its activity.  

Elizabeth’s Clinical Training Fellowship of £281,424 will enable her to study patients’ genes to try to understand how SLC12A3 is controlled. She will study the genes of patients and families who have Gitelman or Gordon syndrome, but without the gene faults we already know about, to find new genes that may control SLC12A3.   

Elizabeth will also use healthy samples from the UK Biobank to see if SLC12A3 gene changes correlate with changes in blood pressure and heart health.  

Supporting the research leaders of the future

Our clinical training fellowships are awarded to medical doctors who wish to get specialist training in kidney research. 

Elizabeth said: “I am thrilled to receive this award from Kidney Research UK. I am really passionate about improving outcomes for kidney patients. I have been working on this particular project, which focused on blood pressure regulation by the kidney, for the last three years alongside my clinical work. This funding will allow me to take time away from my NHS career to give the research the focus and attention it requires. 

This exciting work will help us to understand the pathways that control blood pressure and may reveal new ways to treat it. 

Read more about our newly funded research.

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