De-activating neck nodule may cure high blood pressure.

University of Bristol scientists have discovered a revolutionary treatment for high blood pressure. According to their research, published in Nature Communications, hypertension can be effectively treated by removing the carotid body ― one of the body’s smallest organs that is no bigger than a grain of rice. The nodule is found on either side of the carotid arteries in the neck, that supply the head and neck with oxygenated blood.

In a press release, the researchers say this tiny nodule appears to be a major culprit in the development and regulation of high blood pressure. Led by Professor Julian Paton, they found that by removing the carotid body connection to the brain in hypertensive rodents, blood pressure fell and remained low.
Professor Paton explained that while they knew that the tiny organs behaved differently in conditions of hypertension, they had “absolutely no idea that they contributed so massively to the generation of high blood pressure; this is really most exciting.”

The researchers explain that usually the carotid body regulates the amount of oxygen and carbon-dioxide in the blood. They are stimulated when blood oxygen levels drop like when you hold your breath. This causes a “dramatic increase in breathing and blood pressure until blood oxygen levels are restored. This response comes about through a nervous connection between the carotid body and the brain.”

According to Paton, “despite its small size the carotid body has the highest blood flow of any organ in the body. Its influence on blood pressure likely reflects the priority of protecting the brain with enough blood flow.”

The team has been working on carotid body research since the late 1990’s and their new discovery has already warranted a human clinical trial at the Bristol Heart Institute. Results are expected at the end of this year. Paton said that “this is an extremely proud moment for my research team as it is rare that this type of research can so quickly fuel a human clinical trial. I am delighted that Bristol was chosen as a site for this important trial.”

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