Blood Pressure Regulation Could Become Easier with New Discovery

Newly discovered regulatory pathway in blood vessels could pave way to more efficient management of blood pressure.

In a collaborative study done by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and the British Heart Foundation (BHF), researchers found that malfunctioning of the potassium ion channel called Kv7.4 – contributes to the increase in blood pressure.

Dr. Iain Greenwood from St George's, University of London and his team were able to establish Kv7.4 channel's pivotal role in maintaining the extent to which arteries are constricted or dilated.

Published in this week's issue of the journal Circulation, the study found that rodents with high blood pressure, in some cases, had Kv7.4 channels in their blood vessels that were not functioning properly because of being blocked.

"The muscles in the walls of your blood vessels play a role in adjusting blood pressure and if they need to increase it, they squeeze the blood vessels more tightly to literally put mechanical pressure on your blood," explained Dr Iain Greenwood

"The problem is if the Kv7.4 channels cannot function, the muscle cells overreact to the signals the body is giving to increase blood pressure. We think that in the animals we studied the redundant Kv7.4 channels contributed markedly to their high blood pressure."

Professor Douglas Kell, Chief Executive, BBSRC said "If we are to have long, healthy lives, we need to understand how our bodies cope with the demands we place on them. Increasing our knowledge of the biology that underpins normal, healthy processes will pave the way for future strategies to prevent or treat health problems. Maintaining healthy blood pressure is an important part of keeping us all well and so this research could be of great benefit to many people in the future."

An insight into the role the K+ ion channel proteins play in maintaining healthy body functioning such as blood pressure has opened new possibilities for molecular medicine.

Researchers hope they can use this knowledge to develop new strategies for adjusting blood pressure using drug treatments that home in on very specific targets with fewer side effects.

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