High blood pressure is a major healthcare issue, leading to 10.7 million deaths a year worldwide and severely affecting the lives of many more.

Dr Joram Posma

Understanding the relationship between diet, blood pressure and the workings of the human metabolism could make a huge difference for both prevention and treatment.

In 2018 Dr Joram Posma, now a lecturer in Cancer Informatics at Imperial College London, was awarded an HDR UK fellowship that gave him the freedom he needed to pursue research ideas that he had been developing for years and believed could make a practical difference.

Among the key issues he wanted to address was what people with high blood pressure are actually eating. This is a tricky issue as self-reporting by patients is often far from accurate.

The fellowship gave him access large-scale datasets, with information about thousands of people, that allowed him to compensate for under and over-reporting and to identify patterns.

Attending HDR UK Summer Schools, and taking advantage of other opportunities to meet and talk with peers and with experts from other fields, also enabled him to expand his own skills and knowledge, for example in genetics.

By taking a metabolic phenotyping approach Joram has been able to discover biochemical compounds (metabolites) in urine related to blood pressure and associated dietary patterns.

This has proved valuable in understanding the biochemical processes involved with the onset of high blood pressure and the homeostatic regulation of blood pressure.

Joram is now working with colleagues on the development of urine test that gives accurate information about what someone has been eating and drinking.

Going on a diet and changing eating habits can be notoriously difficult and the urine test could help healthcare teams to monitor and support patients who need to improve their diets and lose weight.

The test might also be useful in further research into how different factors affect blood pressure, and beyond that it might be used to investigate other issues such as malnutrition.

Joram’s career path:

  • MSC in Chemistry cum laude, Radboud University, Nijmegen, 2011.
  • PhD in Bioinformatics and Clinical Medicine Research, Imperial College, London, 2014.
  • Postdoctoral research associate, Department of Surgery and Cancer, Imperial College, 2014-2018.
  • HDR UK Rutherford fund Fellowship, 2018.
  • Lecturer in Cancer Informatics, Department of Metabolism, Digestion and Reproduction, Imperial College, 2019.