Researchers at the University of Glasgow’s School of Cardiovascular and Metabolic Health have been awarded €1.24m from UKRI/Horizon Europe, as part of a large European study focused on improving the diagnosis and management of hypertension.

The ambitious €15m HT-ADVANCE project, which is funded by the EU, UKRI and the Swiss Government, brings together several European partners, including in the UK the Universities of Glasgow, Dundee and Birmingham. The six-year study aims to both streamline the diagnosis of patients with curable forms of hypertension, and also optimise the care of other patients with high blood pressure by predicting their likely response to treatment.

Researchers will measure multiple sets of hypertension patients’ genetic, genomic and metabolomic characteristics (their ‘omics’) to establish key biomarkers for specific forms of endocrine hypertension, as well as to monitor patient responses to blood pressure treatment. The project will utilise methods previously developed by the researchers during the €7.6 million EU-funded ENSAT-HT project which ran from 2015-2021.

HT-ADVANCE will include three separate but complementary clinical trials that will use artificial intelligence machine learning analysis of the omics datasets to generate meaningful diagnostic and therapeutic response prediction tools for clinicians.

The research in Glasgow will be led by Professor Eleanor Davies, who will also lead HT-ADVANCE Work Package 2, dedicated to biomarker measurement. The overall study is co-ordinated by Professor Maria-Christina Zennaro from the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research (Inserm, Paris) and Professor Jaap Deinum from the Radboud University Medical Centre, Nijmegen. Other European institutions hail from Italy, Germany, France, Belgium and the Netherlands.

Arterial hypertension affects 40–50% of the population over the age of 40 and is the prime risk factor for major health problems including myocardial infarction, heart or kidney failure, stroke and cognitive disorders. Worldwide, more than 10 million deaths were attributed to it in 2019 alone.

Despite the existence of effective drug treatments, hypertension remains a poorly controlled condition due to various factors, including the failure to detect readily treatable endocrine forms of hypertension, and the variable response to treatment of patients with the primary form of hypertension.

Professor Davies, together with Dr Scott MacKenzie and Dr John McClure, both also based at the University of Glasgow, will focus on the characterisation of circulating microRNAs as biomarkers – small molecules that play a key role in regulating gene and protein expression, and have been implicated in the development of disease.

Professor Davies said: “I am delighted to have been awarded this substantial funding. It reflects Glasgow’s internationally-recognised expertise in hypertension and cardiovascular endocrinology and also the success of the previous ENSAT-HT project. We hope that HT-ADVANCE will affect a major change in the management of hypertension by facilitating effective personalised treatment, reducing the incidence of cardiovascular co-morbidities, and significantly improving patient health and quality of life.”