Protein Plays Role in Blood Pressure

Potassium channel Kv7 4 helps blood pressure maintenance

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Blood pressure might seem like just another pesky number. In fact it plays a vital role in heart health. The discovery of a protein embedded in the walls of blood vessels might make managing hypertension a little bit easier.

In addition to maintaining a healthy blood pressure, the protein finding could prompt new treatments for those with hypertension.

"Get your blood pressure checked on a regular basis."

Dr. Iain Greenwood from St. George's at the University of London and lead study author, noted that one in three adults in the United Kingdom grapples with high blood pressure. That means about 16 million suffer from hypertension. Dr. Greenwood stressed that those with high blood pressure remain at a much greater risk of heart attack, heart failure and kidney disease. It's also a major risk factor for stroke.

Dr. Greenwood said that the more researchers understand hypertension, the more easily they can identify and treat it. He called the discovery "an important part of the puzzle" that may lead to new treatments.

Researchers were able to show that the protein — potassium channel called Kv7.4 — plays a critical role in maintaining the extent to which arteries dilate and constrict.

Investigators examined hypertensive rodents and found that in some cases, the Kv7.4 channels did not work properly. The channels allow potassium to pass out of the muscle cells into blood vessels.

They found that the channels were blocked causing an imbalance in the muscle cell. That channel was believed to significantly contribute to high blood pressure.

Though it is unlikely all humans with high blood pressure have the defective channels, the finding is expected to aid with ongoing blood pressure maintenance and new treatments. A study showed that a malfunctioning protein contributes to the maintenance of high blood pressure. 

"At present the mechanisms underlying hypertension and its complications remain unresolved. Moreover, despite availability of several classes of anti-hypertensives, many patients’ blood pressures remain resistant even when these agents are used in combination," said Dr. Greenwood.

He noted that the next step is working to correct these defective channels. The discovery is published in the journal Circulation.

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Review Date: 
July 14, 2011
Last Updated:
July 20, 2011