BETHESDA, Md. (April 21, 2009) When Francois Abboud began his work at the University of Iowa in 1960, little was known about the constant physiological chatter between the brain and the blood vessels. His research since has helped unravel how this chatter adjusts blood pressure and blood flow to meet the body's constantly changing demands.
The work has already led to clinical advances, and more may be on the way: Dr. Abboud defined the identity of a sensor in the nerve endings in the carotid artery in the neck that rapidly lowers blood pressure when stimulated. A clinical trial is now underway to see if people who are hypertensive can lower their blood pressure by using a pacemaker-like device that stimulates the nerve endings in the blood vessels.
Ann M. Schreihofer focuses on the role the brain plays in increasing sympathetic nervous activity, which contributes to many forms of hypertension (high blood pressure). Her Medical College of Georgia laboratory studies the links between conditions such as obesity and the chronic intermittent hypoxia that happens in sleep apnea and chronic activation of the sympathetic nervous system.
"We're studying why people who are obese become hypertensive," Dr. Schreihofer said of one aspect of her work. "We believe this is due to something about the obese state: We don't know what that is, but we're starting to rule things out." Indeed, the Schreihofer laboratory has already answered one question: Does hypertension occur because the brain loses its ability to sense that the blood vessels are stretching under high pressure? In a study with obese rats, they found the rats' brains could sense the stretch but still became hypertensive, eliminating that mechanism as a possibility.
APS recognizes important research
The American Physiological Society (APS) presented its highest award, the Walter B. Cannon Award, to Dr. Abboud. He is the 27th recipient of the Cannon Award, which
|Contact: Christine Guilfoy|
American Physiological Society