Research hopes to unlock secrets
of high blood pressure
U.Va. Health System
| Dr. Robert M. Carey
By Mary Jane Gore
Dr. Robert M. Carey has received roughly $2.26 million in funding for research to uncover the secrets of a bodily cycle that leads to high blood pressure. Carey, the Harrison Distinguished Professor of Medicine and University Professor, received the new, five-year grant from the National Institutes of Health.
He and his team hope to uncover the normal body defense process that involves salt and water retention and high blood pressure, scientifically termed pressure-natriuresis.
In normal humans and animals, an increase in blood pressure signals the kidneys to excrete more salt and water. However, the substance that controls this normal process at the cellular and molecular level in the kidney is not understood. Carey has evidence that a substance manufactured by tubule cells in the kidneys of normal animals, called cyclic GMP, is released in response to an increase in pressure and increases the kidney’s ability to excrete salt and water, leading in turn to a reduction in blood pressure.
This pressure-natriuresis mechanism is of critical importance in the pathway toward developing high blood pressure, because this mechanism is markedly defective or absent in all animals and humans with high blood pressure. This research offers the promise of understanding how approximately one quarter of the adult population in the United States develops and maintains high blood pressure (hypertension), a major risk factor for coronary heart disease and stroke.
Understanding the origins of high blood pressure will lead to better treatment and the possibility of preventing hypertension altogether.
Carey is the 2005 recipient of the Endocrine Society’s Distinguished Physician Award – presented annually to recognize outstanding contributions to the practice of clinical endocrinology.