Hot pepper chemical links tongue to heart

September 01, 2003

The secret to heart attack chest pain may be on the tip of your tongue.

Although they may seem unlikely bedfellows, Penn State College of Medicine researchers found evidence to suggest that the same type of nerve receptors that register the burning sensation from hot peppers in the mouth may cause the sensation of chest pain from a heart attack.

"Our study is the first to demonstrate that the 'hot pepper' receptor exists on the heart and may be responsible for triggering heart attack chest pain," said Hui-Lin Pan, M.D., Ph.D., professor of anesthesiology, Penn State College of Medicine. "Until now, the capsaicin, or 'hot pepper' receptor, was only known for sensing heat and pain from the skin. Our data suggest that the 'hot pepper' receptors could become a new target for treatment of some types of chronic chest pain, such as angina pectoris, that are resistant to other treatments." The study, titled "Cardiac vanilloid receptor 1-expressing afferent nerves and their role in the cardiogenic sympathetic reflex in rats," was published today (Sept. 1) in the Journal of Physiology, accompanied by an editorial article discussing the importance of the study.

A heart attack occurs when the heart isn't receiving enough oxygen-rich blood because a heart-feeding artery is restricted or blocked. This causes the heart tissue to release chemicals like bradykinin that cause the blood vessels to enlarge, or dilate, in an attempt to increase blood flow to the heart. Those same chemicals are likely responsible for triggering symptoms of heart attack.

Using a rat model, investigators in Pan's lab first employed immunoflouresence labeling to determine if and where these receptors, called VR1 receptors, are located on the heart. In a subsequent study, they examined whether the sensory nerves containing those receptors are important in triggering the cardiovascular reflex, often associated with the constriction of blood vessels and chest pain.

One group of rats was treated with a capsaicin drug that would specifically bind and deplete the nerve containing the VR1 receptors. Another group, serving as controls, was treated with a placebo, or non-medicated, substance. The ones treated with placebo showed blood pressure and nerve activity increases when capsaicin or bradykinin was applied to the heart. The group that had the nerves "knocked out" saw no increases at all in either blood pressure or nerve activity. (The procedures and protocols were approved by the Animal Care and Use Committee of Penn State College of Medicine.)

These results suggest that active VR1 receptors trigger the cardiovascular and nerve responses of a heart attack, among them, chest pain.

Pan's findings also suggest an explanation for a clinical condition called silent ischemia, which occurs when people suffer from a heart attack with seemingly no symptoms.

"Chest pain is a warning signal that heart tissue may be damaged," Pan said. "Without this signal, we would not be able to detect the potential danger. We found that the hot pepper receptor is located only on the outermost layer of the heart. So if a person's heart attack is causing damage only to the inner heart tissue, they may not have the telltale warning sign of chest pain."

Pan's next step is to draw a definitive connection between the receptors and the triggering of chest pain. To do that, he'll look for chemicals produced by the heart tissue during a heart attack and how those interact with the receptors.

This research was funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health.

Coauthors on the paper were: Matthew R. Zahner, graduate student, Integrative Biosciences Program, De-Pei Li, postdoctoral fellow, Department of Anesthesia, Shao-Rui Chen, research associate, Department of Anesthesia, Penn State College of Medicine, Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.
-end-


Penn State

Related Blood Pressure Articles from Brightsurf:

Children who take steroids at increased risk for diabetes, high blood pressure, blood clots
Children who take oral steroids to treat asthma or autoimmune diseases have an increased risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, and blood clots, according to Rutgers researchers.

High blood pressure treatment linked to less risk for drop in blood pressure upon standing
Treatment to lower blood pressure did not increase and may decrease the risk of extreme drops in blood pressure upon standing from a sitting position.

Changes in blood pressure control over 2 decades among US adults with high blood pressure
National survey data were used to examine how blood pressure control changed overall among U.S. adults with high blood pressure between 1999-2000 and 2017-2018 and by age, race, insurance type and access to health care.

Transient increase in blood pressure promotes some blood vessel growth
Blood vessels are the body's transportation system, carrying oxygen and nutrients to cells and whisking away waste.

Effect of reducing blood pressure medications on blood pressure control in older adults
Whether the amount of blood pressure medications taken by older adults could be reduced safely and without a significant change in short-term blood pressure control was the objective of this randomized clinical trial that included 534 adults 80 and older.

Brain blood flow sensor discovery could aid treatments for high blood pressure & dementia
A study led by researchers at UCL has discovered the mechanism that allows the brain to monitor its own blood supply, a finding in rats which may help to find new treatments for human conditions including hypertension (high blood pressure) and dementia.

Here's something that will raise your blood pressure
The apelin receptor (APJ) has been presumed to play an important role in the contraction of blood vessels involved in blood pressure regulation.

New strategy for treating high blood pressure
The key to treating blood pressure might lie in people who are 'resistant' to developing high blood pressure even when they eat high salt diets, shows new research published today in Experimental Physiology.

Arm cuff blood pressure measurements may fall short for predicting heart disease risk in some people with resistant high blood pressure
A measurement of central blood pressure in people with difficult-to-treat high blood pressure could help reduce risk of heart disease better than traditional arm cuff readings for some patients, according to preliminary research presented at the American Heart Association's Hypertension 2019 Scientific Sessions.

Heating pads may lower blood pressure in people with high blood pressure when lying down
In people with supine hypertension due to autonomic failure, a condition that increases blood pressure when lying down, overnight heat therapy significantly decreased systolic blood pressure compared to a placebo.

Read More: Blood Pressure News and Blood Pressure Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.