Researchers to explore role of hydrogen peroxide in onset of salt-sensitive high blood pressure.

The statistics surrounding high blood pressure in the U.S. are startling — 78 million adults (nearly one out of three) have the condition, 62,000 die from it each year, and it contributes to 348,000 additional deaths, making it the country’s most dangerous disease. For this reason, scientists are relentless in their efforts to find new ways to tackle hypertension and to understand its underlying causes – many of which still remain a mystery.

One well-known cause is salt. In the U.S. the ingestion of salt cause high blood pressure in 30-50 percent of people. To get to the bottom of this fundamental and much touted factor, the National Institutes of Health’s National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute has given the Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) a five-year, $9.5 million grant.

The MCW researchers, under the leadership of Allen Cowley, PhD, MCW professor and chair of physiology, will explore the role of hydrogen peroxide in development of salt-sensitive hypertension. MCW said in a press release that the first project will explore the premise that “increased salt intake results in excess production of hydrogen peroxide, which constricts the blood vessels of the kidney” and plays a dominant role in the development of salt-sensitive hypertension.

Another team led by co-primary investigator Dr. David Mattson, PhD, professor of physiology, will develop the hypothesis that this constriction leads to an initial rise in arterial pressure, which causes an increase of free radicals and cytokines in the kidney. Finally, a team led by co-primary investigator Mingyu Liang, PhD, MB, professor of physiology, will evaluate the theory that a newly discovered pathway of hydrogen peroxide production related to metabolism contributes significantly to the development of high blood pressure.

According to MCW, it is hoped that “the conceptually unique, yet correlated hypotheses will advance understanding of the molecular and physiological mechanisms underlying salt-sensitive hypertension.” In addition, the studies are expected to provide a better understanding of the mechanisms that cause increased oxidative stress and to enable enzymes responsible for its production to be targeted, which in turn should lead to better antioxidant treatments.

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