Friday, October 10, 2014

New Pathway Linking the Brain to High Blood Pressure Identified

News Brief by Alice Chan

Doctors treating patients diagnosed with cardiovascular diseases may look forward to implementing new treatment approaches derived from a recent discovery of a new, neural pathway to the brain. Researchers at the University Of Maryland School Of Medicine, Dr. John Hamlyn and Dr. Mordecai Blaustein, and the Ottawa Heart Institute, Dr. Frans Leenen, completed a research study in which they discovered a connection between the brain and increased blood pressure involving a steroid known as ouabain (pronounced as wah-bain). Dr. Hamlyn and Dr. Blaustein initially discovered ouabain more than twenty years ago. Since then, medical knowledge on cardiovascular diseases has expanded, as scientists know that the brain’s electrical impulses travel to the peripheral arteries through nerves in the sympathetic system and that people with high blood pressure and heart failure tend to have an overactive sympathetic nervous system. Although current medications are designed to decrease activity in the sympathetic nervous system, they also increase the risk of grave side effects, including fatigue, dizziness, and erectile dysfunction. 

In the present study, the research team located and explored a pathway connecting the brain to ouabain’s effects upon proteins that manage arterial calcium and contraction. The team concluded two major points, that ouabain causes arteries to become more sensitive to sympathetic stimulation and enhances artery constriction, which leads to chronic hypertension. 

Dr. Blaustein, who has been studying ouabain since 1977, believes that there is large potential for applying these findings into developing medications that counter ouabain’s effects. In their manuscript to Public Library of Science One, he and his team suggest alternative methods to treat high blood pressure and heart failure. Ultimately, advanced drugs and treatment strategies may help improve the standard of living for individuals living with cardiovascular illnesses. 

University of Maryland Medical Center. "New pathway linking the brain to high blood pressure identified." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 2 October 2014. .

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