University of Bristol researchers have received funding of almost £1 million from the British Heart Foundation to provide novel therapeutic targets for the treatment of high blood pressure.
Affecting one in three people, the treatment of patients with high blood pressure has important clinical and financial implications for public health.
Although scientists know what factors can trigger high blood pressure many of the mechanisms that regulate the long-term control of blood pressure remain a mystery.
Scientists from the University’s School of Physiology and Pharmacology, who are leading the five-year study, believe that these underlying mechanisms are triggered by poor blood delivery to the brain which responds by pushing blood pressure up causing high blood pressure.
This process re-directs blood into the brain to restore adequate flow. In previous studies, involving patient and an animal model of human hypertension, the blood vessels supplying the brain with blood are narrow and resistant to flow.
They also fail to dilate when brain activity increases, which is a time when more blood flow is needed to deliver oxygen and nutrients. So, there appears a greater susceptibility for stroke in high blood pressure.
The study aims to provide new evidence that shows reduced blood flow to the brain will trigger high blood pressure and provide novel therapeutic targets for the treatment of high blood pressure.
Professor Julian Paton, the study’s lead scientist, said: “You have to consider the brain as the most selfish organ in the body; if it is not satiated with enough blood flow it is the most powerful organ in the body for ramping up the pressure.
“We are absolutely delighted to have been given this award from the British Heart Foundation as it directs much needed attention to the brain and provides the opportunity to come up with new ways to control blood pressure in patients that are devoid of the awful side effects of so many currently prescribed drugs.”
Professor Sergey Kasparov, co-investigator on the study added: “We will attempt to prevent the narrowing of brain arteries in high blood pressure so to improve blood flow, unearth the intra-cranial sensors that detect low brain blood flow that trigger high blood pressure and find out why brain vessels are reluctant to dilate when brain activity increases.”
Dr Hélène Wilson, Research Advisor at the British Heart Foundation (BHF), said: “We’re delighted to award almost £1 million to this Bristol team for their work on understanding the causes of high blood pressure, which can lead to greater risk of having a heart attack or stroke. This latest project is looking at a possible role for the brain in effective blood pressure control, and is part of a wide research programme that we hope will help lead us towards new treatments in the future."
The study, entitled ‘Brainstem hypoperfusion as a causative mechanism for neurogenic hypertension’ led by Professor Julian Paton at the University of Bristol, is funded by a British Heart Foundation grant of £980,415.