In a new study, researchers have discovered why obesity causes high blood pressure and identified potential ways of treating that form of high blood pressure.
The research was conducted by a team at the University of Virginia School of Medicine.
The team identified the cellular mechanisms that increase blood pressure in obesity and shows that these mechanisms can be targeted for lowering the blood pressure.
They say if they are able to design the appropriate compounds, we might be able to treat hypertension in obese patients.
Obesity is a growing problem worldwide.
The number of people considered obese has nearly tripled since 1975, and with obesity comes a greater risk of cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure (hypertension) and stroke, among other health problems.
Small arteries in our body control blood pressure.
Scientists have suspected that hypertension in obesity is related to problems in endothelial cells that line these small arteries. The reasons for this, however, have been unclear—until now.
In the study, the team found that a protein on the membranes surrounding endothelial cells allows calcium to enter the cells and maintains normal blood pressure.
Obesity, it turns out, affects this protein, called TRPV4, within tiny subsections of the cell membrane.
Under healthy conditions, TRPV4 at these tiny microdomains helps maintain normal blood pressure.
The team found obesity increases the levels of peroxynitrite-making enzymes in the microdomains containing TRPV4.
Peroxynitrite silences TRPV4 and lowers calcium entry into the cells. Without the proper amount of calcium, blood pressure goes up.
The team believes that targeting peroxynitrite or the enzymes that make it could be an effective way to treat and prevent high blood pressure in obesity, without the side effects that would come with trying to target TRPV4 itself.
The new discovery also may explain why attempts to use antioxidants to lower high blood pressure have not been very effective in clinical trials. This could be due to the lack of specificity of these antioxidants.
The lead author of the study is Swapnil K. Sonkusare of UVA’s Department of Molecular Physiology and Biological Physics.
The study is published in Circulation.
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