One Step Closer to Understanding the Brain’s Role in Hypertension

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December 13th, 2012

Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) researchers have discovered a new link between a protein in the brain and high blood pressure. Their findings are currently available online and will be published in the February 2013 issue of the journal Hypertension.

For decades, scientists have debated whether the kidneys, the sympathetic nervous system, or both control blood pressure. What is known is that about 50 percent of people with hypertension are salt-sensitive; the more salt they eat, the higher their blood pressure gets. Until now, the brain’s role in salt-sensitive hypertension has not been well-understood.

Richard Wainford

Richard Wainford

To investigate this, lead researcher, Richard Wainford, PhD, assistant professor of pharmacology and medicine at BUSM, targeted a protein in the brain called Gαi2.

Through a series of experiments, his laboratory determined that brain Gαi2 signaling pathways may play an important role in preventing the development of high blood pressure. More importantly, the Gαi2 protein may be a target for the next generation of drugs for hypertension. Wainford and his colleagues also conclude that their findings “highlight the intimate connection between the CNS and kidneys in hypertension.”

Funding for this study was provided by a grant from the American Heart Association and NIH grants HL-107330, 8P20 GM103514, and P20 RR018766.

Submitted by Jessica Hurst, MD.