Episode 21: Blood Pressure and the Brain

Did you know that there is a sensor in the nerve endings in the carotid artery that rapidly lowers blood pressure when stimulated? This discovery may one day allow people who are hypertensive to lower their blood pressure by using a pacemaker-like device that stimulates the nerve endings in the blood vessels.

In this edition of Life Lines, we talk to Francois Abboud, of the Carver College of Medicine at the University of Iowa whose research identified this sensor. We’ll also talk to him about his recent research looking at the genes that regulate ion channels, microscopic gates that move chemicals in and out of cells, and that play a role in the signaling between the brain and the blood vessels. In experiments with animals, Dr. Abboud and his colleagues deleted one specific ion channel and found that the animals developed high blood pressure. (Begins at 03:51)

We’ll also talk to Ann M. Schreihofer, of the Medical College of Georgia, who focuses on the role the brain plays in increasing sympathetic nervous activity, which contributes to many forms of hypertension (high blood pressure). Among the questions her research seeks to answer is why people who are obese become hypertensive.

The Schreihofer laboratory has also been looking at sleep apnea and whether it is possible to improve respiratory function as a way to reduce the sympathetic activity that leads to obesity and hypertension. (Begins at 09:43)

In the Buzz in Physiology (begins at 1:24), we have studies on:

  1. resistance training and octogenarians
  2. muscle atrophy during lengthy space missions
  3. belly fat, inflammation and exercise

The photo in our logo is a neuron from the rostral ventral lateral medulla of the brain stem and was provided by Dr. Schreihofer.

Total running time: 16:45.

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