Due to the discovery that the nitric oxide that regulates blood pressure is formed in nerves rather than in the walls of blood vessels, a more effective treatment for high blood pressure may be possible. The discovery recently published in the journal Hypertension, from researchers at King’s College London follows a world-first study in healthy humans, and builds on previous work that established the fundamental role that the gas nitric oxide plays in regulating blood pressure. Once the enzyme had stopped producing nitric oxide, the team was able to analyze the impact the gas from that source has. Surprisingly, reducing production of nitric oxide led to a considerable increase in the force that opposes the flow of blood, known as vascular resistance, and blood pressure itself.
Professor Ajay Shah, BHF Chair of Cardiology at King’s College Hospital and lead scientist on the trial at King’s College London stated, “We used an inhibitor drug to stop an enzyme in the nerves from producing nitric oxide. While we suspected that stopping this enzyme would have some effect, we were surprised at how much influence it has on blood pressure. Our discovery will fundamentally change the way we view the regulation of blood pressure. Until now the majority of blood pressure drugs have focussed on other pathways. Establishing that nerves releasing nitric oxide influence blood pressure, provides a new target for drugs and could eventually lead to more effective treatments for patients.”
Professor Jeremy Pearson, Associate Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation, stated, “The British Heart Foundation estimates that nearly 30% of adults in the UK are living with high blood pressure, putting them at risk of having a heart attack or stroke. Understanding how blood pressure is regulated is crucial if we hope to develop new potential treatments to lower it. This study adds a very unexpected piece to the puzzle of blood pressure regulation. Whilst there are already many treatments for high blood pressure, they are not always effective. These results provide hope of new treatments for people with poorly controlled high blood pressure, which could prove crucial in preventing a heart attack or stroke.”