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Hope of a breakthrough cure for high blood pressure that could save millions of lives every year
Last updated at 8:16 AM on 1st November 2011
A cure for high blood pressure that could save millions of lives every year appears to be just around the corner.
Researchers believe they may be able to control production of an enzyme that can trigger the condition.
The breakthrough by Australian scientists is likely to lead
to the creation of targeted drugs, which will slash the risk of heart
attacks and strokes.
It could revolutionise treatment for the 10million Britons thought to suffer from the condition - five million without knowing it.
Saving lives: The breakthrough could revolutionise treatment for the 10million Britons thought to suffer from high blood pressure
High blood pressure affects nearly a third of all under-65s and is the cause of 62,000 deaths in this country each year.
Scientists now understand how an enzyme called renin, which pushes up the odds of someone developing high blood pressure, can be over-produced in the kidneys.
They found that two molecules known as micro-RNAs can destabilise the production of the enzyme, according to a report in the Daily Express.
'This is a totally new concept,' said Professor Brian Morris, the Australian geneticist overseeing the study. 'Tremendously exciting.'
In the first study to use human kidneys, PhD student Francine Marques found that in the kidneys of those with high blood pressure, the renin gene was six times more active while the micro-RNAs were six times less so.
'That is the key,' said Prof Morris. 'These two micro-RNAs are very much lower in hypertensive people. So if you lose those, the renin goes up, thus raising blood pressure.'
Killer condition: The illness affects nearly a third of all under-65s and is the cause of 62,000 deaths in this country each year
Prof Morris, a professor of molecular medical sciences at Sydney University, first began studying renin as a young student in the early 1970s.
He now hopes the discovery will lead to the development of drugs which could 'knock down renin expression at its source' – stopping it from creating the high blood pressure.
Ms Marques said the findings, which are published online in Hypertension, a journal of the American Heart Association, were 'a huge breakthrough'.
The team used 42 kidneys donated by cancer patients who had the organs removed for medical reasons.
She said: 'The kidney has been suspected as being the culprit of high blood pressure. But human kidneys are hard to come by.
'As a result, no one had ever before studied human kidneys from hypertensive patients and no one has used the latest genomics technology to probe the kidney in human hypertension.'
Professor Jeremy Pearson, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation, said: 'We’ve known for many years that renin is a key regulator of blood pressure.
'However, scientists are still a way off developing drugs that could help lower blood pressure by targeting someone’s genetic material.'
But breakthroughs of this kind are vital, he said, because of the very large death toll among those who suffer high blood pressure.
Often also linked to obesity, the condition forces blood through the arteries at an increased pressure.
Too much pressure puts a strain on the arteries and the heart itself. Left untreated it can cause an artery to rupture or the heart to fail.
Many British adults are prescribed low-dose pills to build up protection against high blood pressure on the NHS, yet almost half forget to take their medications daily.
Tuesday, November 01, 2011
Cure for High Blood Pressure
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