Scientists find natural but elusive blood pressure sensor

August 4, 2021
Scientists find natural but elusive blood pressure sensor

A team the University of Virginia School of Medicine, a part of UVA Health Systems (UVA Health) have finally detected the location of cellular sensors that detect and respond to subtle changes in blood pressure – the natural barometers, or “baroreceptors,” exist in specialised kidney cells called renin cells; they are responsible for the release of blood pressure hormones that prevent high or low blood pressure (hypertension vs. hypotension).

Scientists have long suspected that renin cells are behind blood pressure control, but no one has been able to locate the baroreceptors until now.

Read also: Inter-arm differences in blood pressure increases cardiovascular disease risk

After much research, UVA Health’s Maria Luisa S. Sequeira-Lopez, of the Department of Pediatrics and Child Health Research Center, says that “the elusive pressure-sensing mechanism, the baroreceptor, is [indeed] intrinsic to the renin cell.”

Sequeira-Lopez explained that renin cells contain mechanotransducer-type baroreceptors that would detect pressure changes outside the cell, and transmit the mechanical signals to the cell nucleus, much like how the cochlea in our ear turns sound vibrations into nerve impulses our brain can understand. Changes within renin cells are ultimately influenced by activity of the renin gene, Ren1.

Using this, Sequeira-Lopez and her team compared differences in gene activity in kidneys exposed to lower pressure and those exposed to higher pressure. They found that when the baroreceptors detected too much pressure outside the renin cell, production of renin is restricted; while blood pressure that is too low prompts the production of more renin – this enables the body to maintain the correct blood pressure.

“I feel really excited about this discovery, a real tour de force several years in the making, and with the work to come, to unravel the signaling and controlling mechanisms of this mechanotransducer and how we can use the information to develop therapies for hypertension.”

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Category: Features, Technology & Devices

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