SAN DIEGO -- Researchers from the University of California San Francisco have identified a gene that is critical in controlling blood pressure, a finding that could help in developing more effective therapies for hypertension. High blood pressure, or hypertension, affects nearly 60 million American adults and is a leading cause of kidney failure. If uncontrolled, it also can damage major organs, such as the heart, brain, and arteries.
The gene, called sgk, mediates the effects of aldosterone, a key hormone for regulating sodium and water levels throughout the body. A disruption in the balance of these factors can result in blood pressure problems. The researchers already knew that aldosterone was essential to maintaining normal blood pressure, but its definitive link with the sgk gene had not been made.
"Now that we know that sgk mediates aldosterone's effects, we can begin to devise ways of blocking its action. This holds the promise of providing better treatments for the millions of people with salt-sensitive hypertension," said David Pearce, MD, UCSF assistant professor of medicine and cellular and molecular pharmacology, who treats patients at San Francisco General Hospital Medical Center.
Pearce, who headed the research team, presented the findings here today (June 13) at the annual meeting of The Endocrine Society.
While hypertension is the most common blood pressure disorder, there also are thousands of American adults who suffer from low blood pressure, which can cause serious health consequences. Development of new treatments targeted at the regulation of sgk would be effective for both of these conditions, according to Pearce.
Blood pressure is the force of blood against the walls of arteries in the body as it circulates to supply nutrition and oxygen to cells. Too high and the heart has to work too hard to pump blood through the vascular system; too low and blood doesn't move efficiently to all parts of the body.