What's behind hypertension?

August 01, 2011

BETHESDA, Md. (Aug. 1, 2011) - Each day we consume liquids in order to keep hydrated and maintain our body's fluid balance. But just as a water balloon can get overtaxed by too much liquid, the human body is negatively affected when it retains fluids because it is unable to eliminate them properly. One of the key variables influencing how much fluid we hold in our bodies is ordinary table salt (sodium chloride). The consequences of excess fluid retention can be severe, causing not only edema (excess of body fluid), but also high blood pressure (hypertension), which the Centers for Disease Control estimates affects nearly one in three American adults and last year carried an estimated financial toll of $76.6 billion for the period.

What is the connection between fluid balance and hypertension? The 7th International Symposium on Aldosterone and the ENaC/Degenerin Family of Ion Channels, sponsored by the American Physiological Society, explores this public health concern in detail. New scientific findings, coupled with talks by experts from around the world working in aldosterone and epithelial sodium channel (ENaC) research, is offering insight on the effect these substances have on blood pressure, the cardiovascular system and other organ systems. The meeting is being held September 18-22 at the Asilomar Conference Grounds in Pacific Grove, Calif.

Symposium on Aldosterone and the ENaC/Degenerin Family of Ion Channels

Aldosterone and ENaC can affect fluid regulation in several ways, according to symposium co-chair David Pearce, MD, division chief at San Francisco General Hospital and professor in the Division of Nephrology at the University of California, San Francisco. According to Dr. Pearce, "Aldosterone controls ENaC, the key sodium-transporting protein in the kidney tubule cells. It stimulates the amount of sodium reabsorbed by the body as regulated by ENaC," he said. "The more sodium and water there is in the body, the more circulating fluid there is for the heart to contend with. When the process goes wrong, it can result in high blood pressure."

Thus, "the meeting focuses on the key players in the body that regulate the volume of fluid that surround cells and is in blood vessels, which is a major determinant of blood pressure," said symposium co-chair Thomas R. Kleyman, MD, Professor of Medicine, Cell Biology, Physiology, and chief of the Renal-Electrolyte Division at the University of Pittsburgh Department of Pharmacology and Chemical Biology. "Extracellular fluid volume is regulated by the amount of sodium in the body. Too much sodium is a bad thing, but too little is troublesome as well." He added, "The conference examines how all the parts fit together."

Featured Speakers and Topics

Researchers from the US, Japan, Australia, the United Kingdom and other countries will convene to exchange research, theories and ideas about the interaction between aldosterone and ENaC. The list of confirmed invited speakers includes:

Richard Lifton, Yale University School of Medicine

Dr. Lifton will deliver the conference keynote speech (Sun., 9/18), entitled "Aldosterone and Hereditary Hypertension." The Sterling Professor of Genetics and Professor of Medicine (Nephrology) and Chair, Department of Genetics, Yale University, Dr. Lifton is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and has been honored by several non-profit organizations for his groundbreaking work in identifying genes associated with blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and bone density.

Toshiro Fujita, University of Tokyo, Japan

Dr. Fujita delivers Tuesday's (9/20) plenary lecture with his presentation, "Role of Aldosterone and Mineral corticoid Receptor in Salt-Sensitive Hypertension and Metabolic Syndrome." With over 500 scientific papers to his credit, his research on the renal and metabolic aspects of hypertension and the involvement of aldosterone/mineralocorticoid receptor activation has won him international recognition. He is Professor and Chairman of the Department of Internal Medicine and Chief of the Dept. of Nephrology and Endocrinology at the University of Tokyo.

Michael Welsh, University of Iowa and Howard Hughes Medical Institute

Dr. Welsh provides Wednesday's (9/22) plenary lecture with a presentation entitled "ASIC Structure and Function." He is recognized for his research in cystic fibrosis and work on acid-sensing ion channels in the central and peripheral nervous systems. Dr. Welsh is Professor of Medicine, Molecular Physiology and Biophysics, and Neurosurgery at the University of Iowa; Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute; and Director of the Cystic Fibrosis Research Center.

Bertram Pitt, University of Michigan

Dr. Pitt will present "Effects of Aldosterone on the Heart in Congestive Heart Failure: Implications for Disease Progression and Treatment," on Wednesday (9/22). He is renowned for the RALES trial and several related clinical trials demonstrating the benefits of aldosterone blockade in congestive heart failure. He has also served as principal or co-principal investigator of other large clinical trials such as the Studies of Left Ventricular Dysfunction (SOLVD), and ELITE II.

Bernard Rossier, University of Lausanne, Switzerland

Dr. Rossier is Thursday's (9/22) featured speaker, delivering his address, "The Evolution of ENaC and Na-K-ATPase as Limiting Factors of Aldosterone Action." Since 1974, Rossier has led a research team whose work focuses on ENaC, aldosterone, hypertension, and the pharmacology and genetics of transepithelial sodium transport and blood pressure control. He is Professor Emeritus and former Director of the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology and former Dean of the Faculty of Biology and Medicine at the University of Lausanne.
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Additional Information

The full program is available online at the APS website. Press releases about new study findings will be available on the APS press page during the conference. NOTE TO EDITORS: The 7th International Symposium on Aldosterone and the ENaC/Degenerin Family of Ion Channels will be held September 18-22 at the Asilomar Conference Grounds in Pacific Grove, Calif. The press is invited to attend. For additional information, please contact Donna Krupa at 301.634.7209 or dkrupa@the-aps.org.Physiology is the study of how molecules, cells, tissues and organs function to create health or disease. The American Physiological Society has been an integral part of the discovery process since it was established in 1887. To keep up with the science, follow @Phyziochick on Twitter.

American Physiological Society

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