Posted by the Daily Mail (U.K.) on March 6, 2017.
Scientists last night said the discovery marks a ‘fundamental change’ in the way they view blood pressure. Previously, experts thought it was regulated by the blood vessel walls themselves, rather than the bundle of nerves surrounding them.
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.
High blood pressure – known as ‘hypertension’ – affects one in three adults, more than 17million of the British population.
The condition vastly increases the risk of heart attacks, strokes and vascular dementia, but because it has no symptoms until it is too late, only half of those with the condition know they are at risk.
Of those who have been diagnosed, hundreds of thousands take daily pills to control their blood pressure. However, the current treatment is only effective for about half of patients.
The discovery, by scientists at King’s College London, could allow doctors to mimic the body’s method of regulating blood pressure, such as by stimulating the nerves with enzymes so they produce more of the chemical.
The research team, whose work is published in the journal Hypertension, made the discovery through experiments on healthy men with normal blood pressure, in which they used a drug to stop the nerves producing nitric oxide and found blood pressure rocketed as a result.
Professor Ajay Shah, of the NIHR Biomedical Research Centre at Guy’s and St Thomas’, said: ‘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, which part-funded the research, said: ‘Whilst there are already many treatments for high blood pressure, they are not always effective.’
He added: ‘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.’
Source: Daily Mail (U.K.)