High blood pressure or hypertension is the leading modifiable risk factor for cardiovascular disease and premature death worldwide. And key to treating patients with conditions ranging from chest pain to stroke is understanding the intricacies of how cells around arteries and other blood vessels work to control blood pressure. Although the importance of metals such as potassium and calcium in this process is known, a new discovery about the critical and underestimated role of another metal, zinc, offers a potential new pathway for therapies to treat hypertension.
The results of the study were published recently in Nature Communications.
All body functions depend on the arteries that direct oxygen-rich blood ̵
“Fundamental discoveries that go back more than 60 years have found that calcium and potassium levels in the muscles surrounding blood vessels control how they dilate and contract,” said lead author Ashenafi Betrie, Ph.D., and senior. authors Scott Ayton and Dr. Christine Wright of the Flory Institute of Neurology and Mental Health and the University of Melbourne in Australia.
In particular, the researchers explained that potassium regulates calcium in the muscles and that calcium is known to be responsible for causing narrowing of the arteries and veins, which raise blood pressure and restrict blood flow. Other cells that surround blood vessels, including endothelial cells and sensory nerves, also regulate calcium and potassium in the artery muscle, and they themselves are regulated by the levels of these metals contained in them.
“Our discovery that zinc was also important was accidental because we had studied the brain, not blood pressure,” says Betry. “We studied the effects of zinc-based drugs on brain function in Alzheimer’s disease when we noticed a marked and unexpected drop in blood pressure in models of mice treated with the drugs.”
In collaboration with researchers from the University of Vermont School of Medicine in the United States and TEDA International Cardiovascular Hospital in China, the researchers learned that the coordinated action of zinc in sensory nerves, endothelial cells and arterial muscles causes lower levels of calcium in muscle. of the blood vessel. This causes the vessel to relax, lowering blood pressure and increasing blood flow. Scientists have found that blood vessels in the brain and heart are more sensitive to zinc than blood vessels in other areas of the body – an observation that requires further research.
“Zinc essentially has the opposite effect on calcium on blood flow and pressure,” says Ayton. “Zinc is an important metal ion in biology, and given that calcium and potassium are known to control blood flow and pressure, it is surprising that the role of zinc has not been evaluated before.”
Another surprising fact is that genes that control zinc levels in cells are known to be associated with cardiovascular disease, including hypertension, and hypertension is also a known side effect of zinc deficiency. This new study provides explanations for these hitherto known associations.
“Although there are a number of existing drugs available to lower blood pressure, many people develop resistance to them,” said Wright, who added that a number of cardiovascular diseases, including pulmonary hypertension, are poorly treated by those currently available. therapy. “New zinc-based blood pressure drugs would be a huge result of an accidental discovery, reminding us that research is not just about looking for something specific, it’s just about looking.”
Zinc deficiency may play a role in high blood pressure
Ashenafi H. Betrie et al, Zinc drives vasorelaxation by acting in sensory nerves, endothelium and smooth muscle, Nature Communications (2021). DOI: 10.1038 / s41467-021-23198-6
Provided by the University of Vermont
Quote: The unexpected discovery opens a new way to regulate blood pressure (2021, June 7), extracted on June 8, 2021 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2021-06-unexpected-discovery-blood-pressure. html
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