New heart disease pathway identified

3 October 2014 

Researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UM SOM) and the Ottawa Heart Institute have discovered a new pathway that is used by the brain to help control blood pressure.

Published in the journal Public Library of Science (PLOS) One, the study suggests a new method for treating high blood pressure and heart failure.

Dr John Hamlyn, professor of physiology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, one of the principal authors, said the research gives an entirely new way of understanding how the brain and heart work together. He added that it opens possibilities for innovative treatment that could help patients.

The brain sends electrical impulses to the arteries through a network of nerves called the sympathetic nervous system, which is essential but is often overactive in patients with high blood pressure or heart failure.

Many drugs work to help these conditions by decreasing activity in this system, but these often have serious side effects, such as fatigue, dizziness and erectile dysfunction. 

The team have found a new link between the brain and increased blood pressure - a steroid called ouabain. The new study is the first to identify the particular pathway that connects the brain to ouabain and it is through this that ouabain is able to make arteries more sensitive to sympathetic stimulation. This results in enhanced artery constriction, which promotes chronic hypertension.

Posted by Edward Bartel


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