Scientists have found that removing the grain-sized carotid body may treat high blood pressure, potentially revolutionizing treatment for the world’s biggest silent killer. The carotid body is a small nodule (size of a rice grain) found on the side of each carotid artery- it is one of the tiniest organs in human body.
It appears to be the major risk factor in the development and regulation of high blood pressure. Researchers at University of Bristol deducted that by removing the carotid body connection to the brain with high blood pressure in rodents, it fell and remained low.
"We knew that these tiny organs behaved differently in conditions of hypertension but had absolutely no idea that they contributed so massively to the generation of high blood pressure; this is really most exciting," said Professor Julian Paton, from Bristol's School of Physiology and Pharmacology.
Commonly the function of the carotid body is to regulate the amount of oxygen and carbon-dioxide in the blood. When oxygen levels fall in your blood as occurs when you hold your breath, these are stimulated. As a result, a dramatic increase in breathing and blood pressure occurs until the blood oxygen levels are restored. This response comes about through a nervous connection between the carotid body and the brain.
"Despite its small size the carotid body has the highest blood flow of any organ in the body. Its influence on blood pressure likely reflects the priority of protecting the brain with enough blood flow," Paton said.
The discovery has led to a human clinical trial at the Bristol Heart Institute the results of which are expected at the end of the year.
The study was published in journal Nature Communications.
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