Scientists Discover New Treatment For High Blood Pressure

Chioma Umeha

Experts have discovered how the body regulates blood pressure, giving them a way to replicate it with medication. They found the condition is naturally reduced when nerves which surround the arteries release nitric oxide. High blood pressure causes heart attacks, kidney failures, dementia, strokes and sudden deaths, especially during sleep.

Doctors manage the condition with the prescription of a cocktail of drugs, diet and exercise.

Reports from Medical Xpress stated that the breakthrough by British scientists could pave the way for more effective blood pressure drugs.

The surprising finding that was published Monday, in the journal, Hypertension, from researchers at King’s College London follows a world-first study in healthy humans which found the condition is naturally reduced when nerves which surround the arteries release nitric oxide.

The study, which was supported by funds from the British Heart Foundation (BHF) and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Biomedical Research Centre at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust and King’s College London, treated healthy human subjects with a drug that prevented an enzyme in the nerves from producing nitric oxide.

Once the enzyme had stopped producing nitric oxide, the teams were able to measure the impact the gas from that source has. To their surprise, reducing production of nitric oxide led to a significant increase in the force that opposes the flow of blood, known as vascular resistance, and blood pressure itself.

Professor Ajay Shah, BHF Chair of Cardiology at King’s College Hospital and lead scientist on the trial at King’s College London, said: “We used an inhibitor drug to stop an enzyme in the nerves from producing nitric oxide. While we suspected that stopping this enzyme would have some effect, we were surprised at how much influence it has on blood pressure.

“Our discovery will fundamentally change the way we view the regulation of blood pressure. Until now the majority of blood pressure drugs have focused on other pathways. Establishing that nerves releasing nitric oxide influence blood pressure provides a new target for drugs and could eventually lead to more effective treatments for patients.”

Professor Jeremy Pearson, Associate Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation, said: “The British Heart Foundation estimates that nearly 30 percent of adults in the UK are living with high blood pressure, putting them at risk of having a heart attack or stroke. Understanding how blood pressure is regulated is crucial if we hope to develop new potential treatments to lower it.

“This study adds a very unexpected piece to the puzzle of blood pressure regulation. Whilst there are already many treatments for high blood pressure, they are not always effective. These results provide hope of new treatments for people with poorly controlled high blood pressure, which could prove crucial in preventing a heart attack or stroke.”

Professor Phil Chowienczyk, Professor of Clinical Pharmacology at King’s College London and co-lead on the trial said: “This link between release of nitric oxide from nerves and blood pressure is fascinating because it provides new insight into how blood pressure is controlled by the brain and into how mental health might affect blood pressure.”

The breakthrough also offers a clue about the role stress and emotion play in the condition, because these nerves have a direct link to the brain.

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