Nav: Home

Sensor for blood flow discovered in blood vessels

November 10, 2016

Physical forces like blood pressure and the shear stress of flowing blood are important parameters for the tension of blood vessels. Scientists have been looking for a measurement sensor for many years that enables the translation of mechanical stimuli into a molecular response, which then regulates the tension in blood vessels. Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Heart and Lung Research in Bad Nauheim have now discovered just such a sensor in the inner layer of the blood vessel wall: the molecule in question, known as PIEZO1, is a cation channel and could one day provide a starting point for the treatment of high blood pressure.

Unlike water pipes, which are often used as a model for explaining the functioning of blood vessels, the latter are anything but rigid and lifeless. Instead, they consist of an elastic vessel wall comprising different layers of highly sensitive tissue. This tissue is able to respond to the changing requirements of the body by increasing the vessel diameter and intensifying the blood flow as a result.

The blood vessel receives the information necessary for this process from the blood stream itself: "One of the most important control mechanisms is the physical forces exerted by the blood on the interior of the blood vessels," says Stefan Offermanns, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Heart and Lung Research in Bad Nauheim. "The blood vessel interior is lined with endothelial cells. These register the intensity of the blood flow using molecular antennae." In response to this stimulus, the endothelial cells release nitric oxide, among other things. This causes the vessel musculature to relax and the blood vessel expands.

PIEZO1 translates physical stimulus into molecules

In addition to the level of the blood pressure, the mechanical shear forces are the main factor that affects the endothelium via the bloodstream and are crucial for the regulation of blood flow. "Previously, we knew very little about how endothelial cells register the mechanical forces of the flowing blood at molecular level. With PIEZO1, we have now discovered a cation channel that forms the interface that transposes the physical stimulus into a molecular reaction. This, in turn, controls the tension of the blood vessel wall," explains Shengpeng Wang, first author of the study.

The Max Planck researchers initially observed in cultivated endothelial cells that PIEZO1 triggers a signalling cascade when it is exposed to shear stress: "PIEZO1 is activated by the mechanical stimulus. It causes calcium cations to flow through the channel into the endothelial cells and thereby trigger a chain reaction," says Wang. This signalling cascade culminates in the release of nitric oxide and the expansion of the blood vessel.

High blood pressure without PIEZO1

The Max Planck researchers were able to confirm what they had observed in the laboratory in the living organism using genetically modified mice. Mice with an inactive PIEZO1 gene had higher blood pressure than the control animals. "Due to the lack of the PIEZO1 molecular sensor, the shear forces were not correctly perceived by the endothelial cells and the entire signalling cascade was scarcely activated at all," explains Wang. The cells then released less nitric oxide and the blood vessel musculature remained tense. This, in turn, caused permanently raised blood pressure in the animals.

If PIEZO1 proves to be the long-sought sensor with which the endothelial cells register the mechanical forces of the flowing blood column so as to regulate the tension of blood vessels, it could be of therapeutic importance. "We would be able to activate PIEZO1 pharmacologically using a specific active ingredient. The cells would react to it in exactly the same way as they would to shear stress," says Offermanns. "For this reason, active ingredients that stimulate PIEZO1 could offer a promising option for the treatment of different forms of high blood pressure." PIEZO1 could also provide the therapeutic starting point in the case of diseases, in which the spasmodic narrowing of the blood vessels plays a role.
Original publication: ShengPeng Wang, Ramesh Chennupati, Harmandeep Kaur, Andras Iring, Nina Wettschureck, Stefan Offermanns
Endothelial cation channel PIEZO1 controls blood pressure by mediating flow-induced ATP release.
J. Clin. Invest.; 31 October, 2016


Related Blood Pressure Articles:

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.
The Lancet Neurology: High blood pressure and rising blood pressure between ages 36-53 are associated with smaller brain volume and white matter lesions in later years
A study of the world's oldest, continuously-studied birth cohort tracked blood pressure from early adulthood through to late life and explored its influence on brain pathologies detected using brain scanning in their early 70s.
Blood pressure control is beneficial, is it not?
Until recently, physicians had generally assumed that older adults benefit from keeping their blood pressure below 140/90 mmHg.
The 'blue' in blueberries can help lower blood pressure
A new study published in the Journal of Gerontology Series A has found that eating 200g of blueberries every day for a month can lead to an improvement in blood vessel function and a decrease in systolic blood pressure in healthy people.
How to classify high blood pressure in pregnancy?
The American Heart Association (AHA) and the American College of Cardiology (ACC) changed their guidance to lower the threshold criteria for hypertension in adults.
Discovery could advance blood pressure treatments
A team of Vanderbilt University Medical Center researchers, working with the US Department of Veteran's Affairs (VA), has discovered genetic associations with blood pressure that could guide future treatments for patients with hypertension.
Blue light can reduce blood pressure
Exposure to blue light decreases blood pressure, reducing the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, a new study from the University of Surrey and Heinrich Heine University Dusseldorf in collaboration with Philips reports.
Poor oral health linked to higher blood pressure, worse blood pressure control
Poor oral health may interfere with blood pressure control in people diagnosed with hypertension.
Largest ever genetic study of blood pressure
The largest ever genetic analysis of over one million people has identified 535 new genes associated with high blood pressure.
More Blood Pressure News and Blood Pressure Current Events

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Rethinking Anger
Anger is universal and complex: it can be quiet, festering, justified, vengeful, and destructive. This hour, TED speakers explore the many sides of anger, why we need it, and who's allowed to feel it. Guests include psychologists Ryan Martin and Russell Kolts, writer Soraya Chemaly, former talk radio host Lisa Fritsch, and business professor Dan Moshavi.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#538 Nobels and Astrophysics
This week we start with this year's physics Nobel Prize awarded to Jim Peebles, Michel Mayor, and Didier Queloz and finish with a discussion of the Nobel Prizes as a way to award and highlight important science. Are they still relevant? When science breakthroughs are built on the backs of hundreds -- and sometimes thousands -- of people's hard work, how do you pick just three to highlight? Join host Rachelle Saunders and astrophysicist, author, and science communicator Ethan Siegel for their chat about astrophysics and Nobel Prizes.