Hypertension is characterized by elevated blood pressure, and is the principal cause of heart-attacks, strokes and kidney failure. It is associated with obesity, stress and an unhealthy diet, though its exact cause still remains unknown. An Australian study has revealed that hypertension could be an auto-immune disease, opening the possibility of exploring new methods to treat the condition.
Associate professor Grant Drummond from Melbourne's Monash University said, "It's estimated that hypertension is actually the single most important biomedical risk factor as a cause of death and disability worldwide."
Researchers found that stimulating the immune system in mice could cause hypertension, while dampening down this immune response could restore their blood pressure back to normal levels. Drummond said, "We've found in our laboratory models that stimuli that cause hypertension actually cause an increase in the activation of B cells and an excessive production of antibodies. And what we've further found is that these anti-bodies seem to get lodged within the walls of arteries and that promotes an inflammatory response in those arteries, that ultimately leads to the arteries becoming scarred and stiffened."
The study said, "Certain B cells or immune cells produce an excessive number of antibodies in response to factors such as stress and high-salt consumption."
The research team also found that mice that grew without mature B cells were protected against developing hypertension, and blocking the activity of these cells in normal mice led to a return of normal blood pressure. Drummond said, "This study could help to develop treatment for the 15-20% of people suffering from hypertension, who are resistant to conventional therapies."
The study is published in Hypertension.