Gene therapy in laboratory animals successfully prevents high blood pressure and its damaging effects on the heart and kidneys, report researchers at the University of Florida and University of Alabama.
Previous UF research has demonstrated that high blood pressure, or hypertension, can be prevented in laboratory animals, but UF researchers Mohan Raizada, Craig H. Gelband, and Michael Katovich, of the departments of physiology and pharmacodynamics, believe this is the first animal study to show the heart and kidneys also can be protected. One day, scientists hope gene therapy will be able to control high blood pressure in humans.
The researchers describe their findings in the March 3 issue of the journal "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences."
In the latest study, one of several funded by the National Institutes of Health, researchers used an altered form of DNA in rats to decrease the effectiveness of angiotensin II, a naturally occurring hormone that plays a role in regulating blood pressure. DNA is the spiral-shaped genetic material contained in every living cell that transmits all hereditary characteristics. Scientists generally believe genetics may play a role in hypertension, although the exact cause of most cases is unknown.
"Hypertension affects so many people, and this study is one small piece of the puzzle that we hope will aid our efforts to find a cure," said Raizada, a professor of physiology and associate dean of graduate education in UF's College of Medicine.
"We've shown that, through gene therapy, we can prevent hypertension and damage to the target organs up to at least 120 days in rats. While this particular study would not be performed in a clinical setting, 120 days is the equivalent of 15 to 20 years in a human," he said.
High blood pressure kills about 40,000 people each year in the United
States and contributes to the deaths of 200,000 others. The American Hea
Contact: John Lester
University of Florida