Researchers in New Zealand are helping to develop a new blood pressure medication, providing an option for those who don't like the side effects of existing drugs.
"The exciting feature of our research is that our drug hits a receptor pathway that has never previously been exploited for high blood pressure," University of Auckland research fellow Dr Fiona McBryde said.
The international study, led by the University of Auckland's Honorary Professor Julian Paton, was published in the online edition of Nature Medicine.
Many people don't have blood pressure under control and the side effects of drugs put them off.
High blood pressure itself is largely symptom-free, but it increases the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
The research may provide a new option for treatment-resistant patients and those suffering from side effects, Dr McBryde said.
Instead of targeting the functions within organs, the new approach aims to reduce nervous system activity from the carotid body.
"In healthy individuals, the carotid bodies have very low levels of activity, and act as guardians to protect the supply of blood and oxygen to the brain," said Prof Paton.
"We have discovered that these tiny organs become inappropriately active in conditions of hypertension, generating a signal to the brain which drives an increase in blood pressure."
The approach may also be beneficial for other cardio-metabolic disorders, such as heart failure and sleep apnoea when carotid bodies are known to be sensitised, says Dr McBryde.
The research is supported by the Royal Society Newton alumni scheme in conjunction with Afferent Pharmaceuticals, a subsidiary of Merck. Prof Paton is also a professor of physiology at the University of Bristol in the UK.