British scientists claim to have found a new way to regulate blood pressure, offering hopes of new drugs to treat those suffering from high or low blood pressure.
Blood pressure is the pressure that circulating blood places on the walls of the arteries, the veins and chambers of the heart. High blood pressure is known as hypertension and low blood pressure is known as hypotension. Both can both cause cardiovascular problems.
The pathway found in a study by King's College London involves a process called oxidation (the combination of a substance with oxygen). Until now, oxidation has largely been linked with harm rather than good.
Free radicals (molecules containing oxygen that attack cells in the body) and oxidants, such as hydrogen peroxide, can cause cell damage. But they also play crucial roles in normal cell function.
The scientists discovered that oxidants such as hydrogen peroxide cause a bond to form between two amino acids (building blocks of proteins), which, in turn, activates PKG, an important protein in all tissues, and lowers blood pressure, reported the online edition of BBC News.
In the cardiovascular system, PKG plays a fundamental role in blood pressure regulation, say scientists.
Every fourth adult has high blood pressure. Although powerful drugs are already available, few manage to achieve target blood pressure levels.
Philip Eaton, who led the King's College team, said: "The research could lead to the development of drugs which activate this new pathway."
The researchers now plan to explore the role of this new pathway in the events leading to a heart attack.