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:

Do you really have high blood pressure?
A study by researchers at the University of Montreal Hospital Research Centre (CRCHUM) shows that more than half of family doctors in Canada are still using manual devices to measure blood pressure, a dated technology that often leads to misdiagnosis.
Why do we develop high blood pressure?
Abnormally high blood pressure, or hypertension, may be related to changes in brain activity and blood flow early in life.
For some, high blood pressure associated with better survival
Patients with both type 2 diabetes and acute heart failure face a significantly lower risk of death but a higher risk of heart failure-related hospitalizations if they had high systolic blood pressure on discharge from the hospital compared to those with normal blood pressure, according to a study scheduled for presentation at the American College of Cardiology's 66th Annual Scientific Session.
$9.4 million grant helps scientists explore how cell death from high blood pressure fuels even higher pressure
It's been known for decades that a bacterial infection can raise your blood pressure short term, but now scientists are putting together the pieces of how our own dying cells can fuel chronically high, destructive pressure.
Blood pressure diet improves gout blood marker
A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy and reduced in fats and saturated fats (the DASH diet), designed decades ago to reduce high blood pressure, also appears to significantly lower uric acid, the causative agent of gout.
New tool to improve blood pressure measurement
Oxford University researchers have developed a prediction model that uses three separate blood pressure readings taken in a single consultation and basic patient characteristics to give an adjusted blood pressure reading that is significantly more accurate than existing models for identifying hypertension.
Blood vessels sprout under pressure
It is blood pressure that drives the opening of small capillaries during angiogenesis.
Better blood pressure control -- by mobile phone
An interactive web system with the help of your mobile phone can be an effective tool for better blood pressure control.
Time to reassess blood-pressure goals
High blood pressure or hypertension is a major health problem that affects more than 70 million people in the US, and over one billion worldwide.
With help from pharmacists, better blood pressure costs $22
A pharmacist-physician collaboration in primary-care offices effectively and inexpensively improved patients' high blood pressure.

Related Blood Pressure Reading:

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

Do animals grieve? Do they have language or consciousness? For a long time, scientists resisted the urge to look for human qualities in animals. This hour, TED speakers explore how that is changing. Guests include biological anthropologist Barbara King, dolphin researcher Denise Herzing, primatologist Frans de Waal, and ecologist Carl Safina.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#SB2 2019 Science Birthday Minisode: Mary Golda Ross
Our second annual Science Birthday is here, and this year we celebrate the wonderful Mary Golda Ross, born 9 August 1908. She died in 2008 at age 99, but left a lasting mark on the science of rocketry and space exploration as an early woman in engineering, and one of the first Native Americans in engineering. Join Rachelle and Bethany for this very special birthday minisode celebrating Mary and her achievements. Thanks to our Patreons who make this show possible! Read more about Mary G. Ross: Interview with Mary Ross on Lash Publications International, by Laurel Sheppard Meet Mary Golda...