Obesity promotes the onset of high blood pressure and hypertension and a team of researchers from the School of Medicine at the University of Virginia seems to have discovered the trigger.
As Swapnil K. Sonkusare of the Department of Molecular Physiology and Biological Physics of UVA explains, there are cellular mechanisms that cause blood pressure in obese people to increase.
This means that if appropriate compounds are designed to target these mechanisms, it may be possible to treat and eliminate hypertension in obese patients.
Obesity is a global problem: the number of obese people has almost tripled since 1975 (especially in Western countries) and with it the risk of diseases such as cardiovascular disease, hypertension and strokes has also increased.
Scientists have already concluded in the past that hypertension in obese passers-by is related to problems in the behaviour of endothelial cells lining the arteries, but the reasons have been unclear.
The Sonkusare research team discovered the existence of a protein called TRPV4 on the membranes surrounding endothelial cells. These proteins allow calcium to enter the cells while maintaining stable blood pressure levels.
Obesity affects this very protein and makes it defective, as Sonkusare himself explains: “Under healthy conditions, TRPV4 in these tiny microdomains helps maintain normal blood pressure. For the first time, we show the sequence of events leading to a microenvironment that is harmful to calcium intake through TRPV4. I think the concept of pathological microdomain will be very important not only for studies on obesity, but also for studies on other cardiovascular disorders”.
The same researchers have also found that obesity increases the levels of enzymes that produce peroxynitrites in microdomains containing TRPV4. So targeting peroxynitrite or enzymes directly could become an effective way to prevent or treat high blood pressure from obesity without the side effects that would result from directly targeting the TRPV4 protein.
TRPV4 protein is present in many other tissues, from the brain to the bladder, so if you target it with a drug you would get desired side effects.
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