In 1986, the researchers began a unique study of 1,100 children between the ages of 5 and 11 years to see if telltale signs existed to determine who might be at risk for developing hypertension. The study “The Indiana University Blood Pressure in the Young” study, enrolled children of all races although the majority of those enrolled were African-American and Caucasian.
Two times a year, the children were weighed, measured for height, skin-fold thickness, their blood pressure recorded and, in some cases, blood and urine samples were collected. DNA from some of the parents and children also was collected for this study funded by the National Institutes of Health.
Sodium “salt” retention underlies the development of hypertension or high blood pressure, which is often called “the silent killer.” Hypertension is more common in individuals of African-American descent. The study found among other things that the kidney retains more sodium in African-Americans – evident even in childhood, before there is any hypertension. The findings are consistent with a genetic predisposition. Current work is directed at understanding the mechanisms that cause certain individuals to retain sodium more than others.
IU School of Medicine researchers J. Howard Pratt, M.D., emeritus professor of medicine, and Wanzhu Tu, Ph.D., associate professor of medicine in the Division of Biostatistics, said they have lost touch with 350 of the original participants.
“The long-term intent of the study is to use data collected when subjects were very young and relate it to their level of blood pressure as adults. Identifying precursors can provide important clues for the causes of hypertension. We really need to contact as many of the early members of the study as possible – we have a scientifically unique opportunity to really learn what causes this disease,” said Dr. Pratt.
For additional information or to resume contact with the study coordinator, contact Linda Pratt, R.N., at 317-274-0791.