Honors Theses

Date of Award


Document Type

Undergraduate Thesis

Degree Name



Biomedical Sciences

Faculty Mentor

Nancy A. Rice


Padmamalini Thulasiraman, Alison K. Henry


Cardiovascular disease (CVD), the leading cause of death worldwide, is rapidly increasing in low-and middle-income countries (LMICs). particularly those of Sub Saharan Africa (SSA). Hypertension is the leading risk factor for CVD and is a multifactorial disease with no single genetic cause. Increasingly, evidence indicates that hypertension is predisposed by environmental regulation of genes through heritable, yet modifiable, epigenetic changes to DNA leading to changes in gene expression. e.g. methylation. While understanding the etiology of hypertension in LMICs is a global priority, few epigenetic studies exist from populations living in SSA. The renin arigiotensin system (RAS) is the primary hormonal pathway that regulates blood pressure through changes in salt and water retention. Previously, we have found a high prevalence of hypertension (55 % had systolic blood pressure (SBP) >130 mml-Ig) in a rural population of Kenyans that was not correlated with lifestyle or behavioral factors. As a result, this study investigates the hypothesis that epigenetic regulation, specifically DNA methylation ofAGTR1 promoter, as a result of exposure to household air pollution (HAP), results in an increased risk of high blood pressure in this population. Studies from our lab show there may be increased methylation in hypertensive versus normotensive Kenyans (1 8.4 + 2 and 12.92 ± 1 .78. respectively) when four cytosine-phosphate guanine (CpG) sites of the AGTRJ promoter were analyzed (n=34). Increased methylation in hypertensive versus normotensive Kenyans for CpG 3 was observed (44. 1 + 4.95 and 26.42 + 6.68, respectively) (pO.O47). Additionally, when monetary spending on charcoal was analyzed as a proxy for HAP exposure, monthly spending on charcoal was increased for hypertensive versus normotensive Kenyans (552.94 + 126.35 and 388.24 ± 136.62. respectively).


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