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UCLH and UCL begin trial of genetic analysis in blood pressure patients

UCLH and UCL have begun to recruit patients from UCLH’s Cardiovascular Risk clinic for a ground-breaking study to see whether genetic information can improve our understanding of high blood pressure.

Whilst this has been done as part of a number of studies in the past, the UCLH and UCL approach is unique in that they will also be returning this information to the patients as well as the doctors to understand how this information is useful and how it should be best communicated with doctors and patients.

For the UCLH BRC’s AboutMe initiative, researchers will analyse patients’ DNA and other personal biological information to try to understand why some people have high blood pressure and others don’t, and if it could be used to tailor treatment – and whether it would be feasible for such testing to be rolled out across the NHS for other disease areas.

Some NHS patients have already had their DNA sequenced as part of the 100,000 Genomes Project done by Genomics England, but that project has so far focussed on rare diseases and cancer. UCLH and UCL researchers aim to extend this sequencing effort for common conditions. This effort and return of genomic information has not been done in the NHS before, within routine care.

The ultimate aim is that any NHS patient could have their DNA analysed in order to predict their chance of developing different conditions, prevent or reduce their risk of disease, and diagnose patients earlier – with data returned to patients in a personalised report. Data from patients may also help in future with the development of drugs or tailoring of treatment.

For the initial study, research processes will be carried out in parallel with routine care to minimise disruption to patients. For instance, the doctor will seek the patient’s consent in the course of a clinic appointment, and the phlebotomist will take blood samples for research at the time of taking samples for standard tests. Blood samples will be processed by UCLH’s laboratory.

The BRC’s AboutMe initiative seeks to embed genomics and testing of other personal biological information into the NHS.

Researchers will be working with patients to look at how genetic information, including information on the risk of developing different conditions, can be best communicated to patients within the NHS environment.


Dr Reecha Sofat and patient Ian Katz