Common Blood Pressure Drug May Promote Healthy Cells

ATHENS, Ohio -- New studies of a drug taken by millions of hypertension sufferers suggest it may have a positive side effect that could lead to healthier cells, according to researchers at Ohio University.

"Hydralazine is a very commonly used drug, and it's been used for years," said Peter Johnson, professor of biomedical sciences and chemistry at Ohio University and co-author of the study. "It's sort of reassuring that it doesn't have any negative effects on cells and that it can have positive implications."

Johnson's studies suggest that hydralazine, taken by millions of people with high blood pressure since the early 1950s, improves cell health by decreasing the number of free radicals -- chemical byproducts of normal aerobic activities that can damage a cell's membrane, proteins and DNA. These new studies contradict previous research performed in purely chemical systems that suggested hydralazine was a free-radical generator and potentially harmful to cells.

A healthy body reacts to free radicals by producing antioxidant enzymes, which neutralize the free radicals before they can harm cells. When the production of free radicals is elevated, as is the case with hypertensive patients, a cell's ability to release these protective enzymes is affected.

Hydralazine and captopril, another popular antihypertension drug, are used to lower high blood pressure by relaxing the blood vessels. Only in the past several years have researchers discovered these drugs' effects on the production of free radicals in cells.

Some drugs, such as hydralazine, were thought to increase free radicals. Others, such as captopril, are antioxidants, which researchers believed made them natural free-radical inhibitors. But Johnson's latest research, which looked at both hydralazine and captopril, suggests captopril doesn't have an immediate antioxidant effect in cells.

"Captopril did not have the kind of positive ef

Contact: Melissa Rake
Ohio University

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