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Scientific breakthrough could free patients of blood pressure pills

Hypertension linked to adrenal tumours in many patients

Jo Carlowe

Monday, 05 August 2013

Scientists have made a breakthrough that could reduce the number of people requiring medication for high blood pressure.

The team from the University of Cambridge and Addenbrooke’s Hospital found that around one in twenty people with high blood pressure have the condition because of a hormone imbalance. The imbalance was found to be due to adrenal aldosterone-producing adenomas (APAs) - small, benign nodules in the adrenal glands.

By identifying these patients their high blood pressure can be cured by removing the growths.

Until recently, however, it has been difficult to detect APAs because some of the nodules are so small. But Professor Morris Brown has developed a cutting-edge screening process that uses an ultra-sensitive PET-CT scanner combined with advanced genetic testing to detect tiny adrenal nodules. Brown and team published their findings in this week’s Nature Genetics.

The breakthrough has been welcomed by the British Heart Foundation. Commenting on the findings, its Associate Medical Director Professor Jeremy Pearson, said: “This brand-new combination of genetic testing and high-tech scanning will allow clinicians to work out quickly and accurately if someone has high blood pressure as a result of these problems with their adrenal gland.

“It is an exciting development, as this group of patients can be completely cured of high blood pressure once they have been identified, so the quicker they are diagnosed the better.” 

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