Gene research offers hope for future blood pressure treatments

In my ongoing search to uncover alternative high blood pressure remedies I came across some interesting information in the world of genetic research topics the other day, which I thought was worth spending some time on.


genomic information

The Human Genome Project whose first complete sequence of individual human genomes was published, and which continues to this date, was a major breakthrough.  The data which the project has produced so far is readily available to scientists in many different fields of study, such as Medicine, Forensics and Anthropology, and offers exciting possibilities for eventual progress in the diagnosis and treatment of human diseases.

The information I came across recently piqued my interest because it was geared towards specific genes which the current research is showing have a connection to the regulation of blood pressure in the body.

Naturally Produced Protein can lower Blood Pressure

Angiotensin II is a peptide hormone which acts as a vasoconstrictor - a blood vessel narrower - and is widely accepted as a culprit for causing high blood pressure.  Many of the prescription blood pressure medications used to help reduce hypertension actually target this Angiotensin II hormone by inhibiting its production with a consequent  lowering of blood pressure.  So removing Angiotensin, or blocking its production is important for blood pressure regulation.

In a team of researchers at the Riken Brain Science Institute, under team leader Katsuhiko Mikoshiba made a significant discovery, when experimenting with mice, which unexpectedly revealed a potential new mechanism for how to regulate blood pressure.

The ERAP1 Protein

Without getting too technical this discovery revolves around a protein in the body called Endoplasmic Reticulum Aminopeptidase1 or ERAP1 for short.

At the cellular level this protein, which actually functions as an enzyme, is responsible for cutting (or cleaving - the technical term!) other proteins into smaller parts called peptides.

Now the significance of this function on blood pressure was discovered by chance by the Riken Institute researchers when an experiment with mice in the laboratory turned up an unanticipated outcome.  Namely, some of the mice who had higher levels of the ERAP1 protein presented with 20% lower blood pressure than the rest.  But why??

Well, it turns out that these mice with the higher levels of ERAP1 protein were a bit of a genetic anomaly.  They were actually deficient in another protein (ERp44) which the ERAP1 normally binds to in the cell.

With the absence of this protein ERp44, the ERAP1 was left to enter the bloodstream where it is able to absorb Angiotension II - the peptide hormone which is responsible for elevating blood pressure.

As Research Leader Katsuhiko Mikoshiba commented on this discovery:


He went on to observe that whilst traditional therapies for high blood pressure management:

quote II

This definitely offers hope for future treatments and perhaps not only in the field of new medications, but also in coming up with ways to regulate high  blood pressure naturally.

ERAP1 also targets inflammation

One condition which is thought to be at the root of many of today’s diseases, such a type 2 Diabetes, arterial plaque build-up and cardiovascular disease, and high blood pressure is Chronic Inflammation.  The typical Western diet with all its processed foods, fast food, overconsumption of salt and sugar, as well as its inherent nutritional deficiencies, is a largely a pro-inflammatory diet.

The other role of ERAP1 protein in the body is to break down inflammation-related hormones and prevent them from entering the cells.  Whilst this is important, it means that it does this at the expense of being available in the bloodstream to deal with the Angiotensin II hormone, which as already noted, is one major cause of high blood pressure, if left unregulated.

So it only makes sense that in order for ERAP1 to do its job of removing Angiotensin II, it is vital to be able to first minimize inflammation in the body.  Rather than creating drugs to supplement the amount of ERAP1 available in the body, a more natural way to approach this would be to concentrate on reducing the factors which lead to high inflammatory responses in the first place.

Here are some factors to consider:

  1. Review your Diet
    Educate yourself on anti-inflammatory foods. CLICK HERE FOR SOME IDEAS.
  2. Lose some pounds - if you are overweight
    Inflammation and obesity go hand in hand and are associated with Type II Diabetes.  Weight control can help with chronic inflammation regulation.  See HERE for an interesting discourse on this topic
  3. Adopt a regular exercise regimen
    Being physically active fights agains inflammation.  Exercise itself protects against metabolic syndrome which has been shown in studies to be a product of chronic low grade inflammation and its effects on vital organs and systems in the body.  But there is a caution to be aware of, as gruelling and very intensive workouts can give rise to inflammation one or two days afterwards.  So the best approach here is to engage in regular exercise or activity yes, but do it in moderation.
  4. Control stress
    Whilst we cannot hope to avoid stress entirely in our lives, it is important to develop techniques to deal with it effectively so that the body does not end up in a state of constant low grade stress, and never has a chance to relax and repair itself.

Great ways to deal with stress include:

•  Meditation,Yoga, Deep Breathing, Nature Walks, Gardening, Reading a book - basically anything which keeps your focus on the present and helps you to relax.

In Conclusion

The continued genetic investigation of the human body in the future should lead to further discoveries about the causes of high blood pressure.

Researchers are finding that it is now not enough to simple study individual genes and their effects, but rather to look at a number of genes and how they interact in order to figure out which are the so-called “driver genes”  when it comes to the regulation of blood pressure.

One such study is the Framingham Heart Study which has already been able to identify several networks of genes which can be connected with blood pressure regulation.

There is obviously a great deal of work yet to be done, but there is much optimism that as a result of continued investigation, we will gain a deeper understanding of what causes hypertension and how it can be more effectively prevented as well as treated.

And that is indeed encouraging!!