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Researchers discover possible new mechanism for high blood pressure

St. Louis, Feb. 15, 2003 -- Genetic differences that prevent tiny blood vessels from relaxing may be one reason why some people have high blood pressure, or hypertension, according to research led by scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. The findings are published in the February issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

"These findings provide new insights into the cause of hypertension and how normal blood pressure is regulated," says lead investigator Kendall J. Blumer, Ph.D., professor of cell biology and physiology. "This may lead to a way of determining the underlying cause of a person's hypertension and the most effective treatment for that individual."

Blood pressure is the force exerted by the blood against artery walls. Nearly one in four adults in the United States are estimated to have above-normal blood pressure. The condition is most common in African Americans and the elderly. Uncontrolled high blood pressure greatly increases risk for stroke, atherosclerosis, heart attack and kidney failure, and it can aggravate symptoms of diabetes.

Several classes of drugs are available to treat high blood pressure, but there is no way to determine which drug will best help particular patients because the underlying cause of the disease is unknown in 90 to 95 percent of cases.

Scientists have long known that certain signaling substances hormones and neurotransmitters in the body cause tiny arteries known as arterioles to constrict, causing blood pressure to rise. These substances also help regulate blood pressure by altering electrolyte and fluid levels in the kidneys.

But the precise mechanism through which these signaling substances maintain normal blood pressure even under rapidly changing conditions -- such as quickly standing or suddenly running remains poorly understood. Recent research has suggested that a protein known as regulator of G protein signaling 2 (RGS2) is inv
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Contact: Darrell E. Ward
wardd@msnotes.wustl.edu
314-286-0122
Washington University School of Medicine
15-Feb-2003


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