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Scientists' breakthrough attracts new funding for high blood pressure research

Scientists at the University of Strathclyde's Institute of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences, have recently been awarded almost 155,000 by the British Heart Foundation to conduct a two year investigation aimed at improving the treatment of hypertension.

Dr Debbi MacMillan and joint recipients of the award, Prof John McCarron and Dr Charles Kennedy, have identified a novel mechanism for the control of blood vessel constriction, essential in blood pressure regulation, which may lead to the development of new treatments for high blood pressure.

The researchers have identified a heretofore unrecognised pathway which regulates calcium activity within the smooth muscle of the blood vessel wall, to control constriction and dilation of blood vessels. The constriction and dilation of the muscular walls of blood vessels is controlled by calcium, which regulates blood flow through the vessels and thus blood pressure within the vessels. Yet, until now, a mechanism whereby calcium is regulated by the purinergic drug, ATP, has not been recognised.

This study will investigate the process by which ATP modifies calcium to regulate the constriction and dilation of blood vessels and how this may be altered in disease.

The new 36M building where Dr MacMillan is based is due to be officially opened later in 2011 as part of the world-class Institute at the University of Strathclyde for the discovery and development of new drugs to treat global diseases. An 8M fundraising campaign for the new drug development facility has attracted significant philanthropic support from Charities, Trusts and Strathclyde alumni resulting in 7M raised to date with additional donors still required.

The lead investigator, Dr MacMillan, said, "I am delighted that we have received funding from the British Heart Foundation. This prestigious award will enable us to gain a better understanding of the normal physiology of smooth muscle and how it might be changed in disease conditions, to provide better informed treatment, which leads to better management of the disease.

"Our findings will undoubtedly present new opportunities for the development of new drugs for treating vascular disorders."

Despite advances in medication targeting against hypertension, the underlying cause of the disease remains unclear and current medication is limited in achieving effective blood pressure control. A contributing factor is a poor understanding of the normal regulation of blood pressure and alterations which occur in the hypertensive patient. Key to understanding blood pressure control is an appreciation of smooth muscle, which is present within the walls of a number of organs in the body including blood vessels.

It is hoped that effective drug therapy to treat the underlying cause of the disease may avoid the need for long-term anti-hypertensive medicines.


Contact: Corporate Comms
University of Strathclyde

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