The blood pressure level in body is controlled a small organ of the size of a grain of rice, the carotid body, located between two major arteries that feed the brain with blood, said a new study.
A team of clinical scientists at the University of Bristol have found that the carotid bodies appear to be a cause of high blood pressure, triggering heart and renal failure, and strokes. The World Health Organization has identified high blood pressure as the single most important risk factor for the global burden of disease and death.
The clinical trial demonstrated that the carotid bodies in patients who responded to resection had raised carotid body activity. These patients breathed more at rest and produced exaggerated breathing responses when the oxygen level in their blood was lowered.
The study was led by Prof. Julian Paton at the University of Bristol and Dr Angus Nightingale at the Bristol Heart Institute, found that removing one carotid body from some patients with high blood pressure caused an immediate and sustained fall in blood pressure.
Dr Nightingale said, “The falls in blood pressure we have seen are impressive – more than you would see with pharmacological medication – and demonstrate the exciting potential there now is for targeting the carotid body to treat hypertension.”
The carotid bodies “sniff” the levels of oxygen in blood, and when this falls they raise the alarm of a potential emergency by signaling to the brain to increase breathing and blood pressure. The effect is similar to having the thermostat in your home set too high all the time.
“Treating the carotid body is a novel approach and a potential game changer as we believe we are reducing one of the main causes for hypertension in many patients. High blood pressure treatment typically tackles the symptoms targeting the end organs such as the heart, kidneys and blood vessels, and not the causes,” said Prof. Paton.
Although this surgical approach to controlling high blood pressure was successful, they said it would not be the solution in the long term. It requires to find a drug that dampens down an overactive carotid body and resets the blood pressure thermostat to a normal level.
Professor Paton’s team may have found such an alternative. Recent animal studies published last week in Nature Medicine, discovered that the energy molecule adenosine tri-phosphate appears to be responsible.
The paper was published in the Journal of American College of Cardiology: Basic to Translational Science.