Stiff arteries alone are enough to cause high blood pressure, suggests a computer model of a ‘virtual human’.
High blood pressure is a serious condition that affects more than 1 billion across the globe. The condition can lead to serious conditions such as coronary heart disease, heart failure, stroke and kidney failure.
It is when blood pressure travels down the aorta from the heart, a group of cells in the aortic wall known as baroreceptors, sense the pressure in this stretch of the aortic wall. The baroreceptors send signals with this information to the nervous system. These cells send stronger signals if the blood pressure is too high and the body is able to lower blood pressure.
According to a research at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences, the arterial stiffness represents a major therapeutic target. This is in contrary to the existing models, which typically explain high blood pressure in terms of defective kidney function. According to the study authors, with the stiffening of the wall that follows ageing and the baroreceptors do not signal as intensively as they should and the body does not get the message to lower blood pressure. The study predicts the quantitative effects of this process on blood pressure.
The researchers used existing experimental data and models of the aging human aorta and showed quantitatively how the stiffening of the aorta caused the baroreceptors to misinform the central nervous system about blood pressure. The model predictions were then compared with data from the Nord-Trondelag Health Study (HUNT2), which had the information on the health history of 74,000 people, including blood sample collection from 65,000 people.
Stig W Omholt from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, who was the senior investigator of the research project, said that if the hypothesis is proven right, arterial stiffness and baroreceptor signalling will become hotspot targets for the treatment of high blood pressure.
The study was published in PLOS Computational Biology.
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