Email High blood pressure has just gotten a new culprit: a newly discovered brain cell.
While the usual suspects of heart risk — weight high blood pressure, stress, smoking, those salty slices of bacon — do contribute to high blood pressure, researchers think they've discovered a new cluster of neurons that also play a role.
If these neurons also exist in human brains, scientists and doctors may have a new avenue for tackling hypertension chronically high blood pressure and other heart problems.
These cells, which are part of a family of nerves known as parvalbuminergic neurons, are located in the hypothalamus of the mouse braina region that helps control involuntary functions such as thirst, body temperature and blood pressure. Jens Mittag, a molecular biologist at Sweden's Karolinska Institutet, and his team focused on mice that had mutations in a cell receptor for thyroid hormone.
This defect prevented their hearts from responding normally to stressful high blood pressure, such as environmental temperature changes. To determine whether the hypothalamus also played a role, Mittag and his team scanned the brains of the mutated mice, finding the hypothalamus was missing a significant number of parvalbuminergic neurons.
Here's what the researchers think is happening: The thyroid hormoneproduced by the thyroid gland in the brain in the neck, is partly responsible for making these special neurons. Mice with a lack of thyroid hormone activity does diabetes cause heart problems successfully form these parvalbuminergic neurons during embryonic development.
The researchers confirmed the role of these neurons in another experiment in which they destroyed these cells in other mice with the help of a virus.
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This action led to hypertension and heart-rate problems in the presence of temperature changes. These are the first neurons in the hypothalamus on the cellular level that we know regulate these parameters," Mittag told LiveScience.
In the meantime, Mittag said the study underscores the importance of making sure that pregnant women produce a sufficient amount of thyroid hormone. Without it, the brain of the fetus may not develop properly and, according to this study, cardiovascular issues from a lack of parvalbuminergic neurons may be just one more problem for the fetus that can be caused by insufficient thyroid hormone production in the mother.
The research was detailed online Dec. All rights reserved.
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