A team of California researchers has identified a molecular "on-off switch" that regulates high blood pressure — a finding that could provide a new key to controlling and preventing the biological processes that trigger the deadly condition.
In a new report published online this month in the journal Bioorganic & Medicinal Chemistry, the University of California-San Diego team said it has designed new compounds that mimic those naturally used by the body to regulate blood pressure.
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The work could pave the way for a new class of drug treatments for hypertension, which affects about 76 million people — about one in three adults — in the United States, according to the American Heart Association. Untreated, it can damage blood vessels and lead to kidney failure, heart attack, and stroke.
"This approach demonstrates the effectiveness of rational design of novel drug candidates," said lead researcher Igor F. Tsigelny, a scientist with the university's San Diego Supercomputer Center, the UC-San Diego Moores Cancer Center, and the Department of Neurosciences.
For the study, scientists focused on a particular peptide — called catestatin — that they determined to be a key "gatekeeper" compound involved in the regulation of hypertension. They said a drug that can mimic the action of catestatin would allow people to control the hormones that regulate blood pressure.
"Our results suggest that analogs can be designed to match the action of catestatin, which the body uses to regulate blood pressure," added Daniel T. O'Connor, a professor at the UC-San Diego School of Medicine. "Those designer analogs could ultimately be used for treatment of hypertension or autonomic dysfunction."
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