News archive 2008
Prize for blood pressure therapy research22 Jul 2008, PR 158/08
A young scientist at King’s has been awarded a prize for his role in the discovery of a fundamental new mechanism that may be crucial for the development of new medicines to tackle high blood pressure.
Dr Seddon, working within a team led by Professor Ajay Shah and Professor Phil Chowienczyk from the Department of Cardiology at King's, found that in humans the ‘tone’ of blood vessels – the extent that they’re constricted to maintain healthy blood pressure - is regulated by the enzyme Neuronal Nitric Oxide Synthase (nNOS). Previously, researchers thought that the control was down to a different form of NOS, Endothelial Nitric Oxide Synthase (eNOS).
High blood pressure affects over a third of men and over a quarter of women in the UK and is a major risk factor for heart disease. Importantly, the discovery of the role of the nNOS system brings to light a distinct new target for development of medicines for hypertension. This is important because despite the availability of other drugs for the condition, there remains a need to find more effective medications for the condition.
The research funded by the British Heart Foundation was recently published in the journal Circulation. Dr Seddon won the Young Research Worker of the Year prize at the annual British Cardiovascular Society conference.
Dr Seddon, a clinical research fellow at King’s College London comments: 'The particularly novel aspect of the study is that it identifies a fundamental new mechanism in vascular regulation in humans in vivo which may be of significant relevance to diseases such as hypertension.
'From a therapeutic point of view, nNOS and eNOS are distinct enzymes that can be targeted by different drugs. We also looked at changes in blood flow in response to mental stress and found that these also involve nNOS.'
In the study, the team infused an nNOS ‘blocker’ into the circulation of healthy volunteers and measured the vessel constriction and blood flow in the forearm.
Their findings suggest that the two forms of NOS are important for different types of regulation: nNOS may be in charge of ‘everyday’ control – and therefore chronic blood pressure conditions - while eNOS mediates quick blood flow changes in response to demands on our bodies, for example when under stress or doing strenuous exercise.
Professor Jeremy Pearson, Associate Medical Director at the BHF comments: 'For almost 20 years, since pioneering work led by Dr Patrick Vallance at St George’s Hospital first demonstrated that nitric oxide (NO) controls the tone of human blood vessels, it has been believed that eNOS is mainly responsible for producing it. The present study unexpectedly indicates that actually nNOS is responsible. The findings open up the exciting possibility of developing new drugs to modify blood pressure.'
Notes to editors
King’s College London
King’s College London is one of the top 25 universities in the world (Times Higher 2007) and the fourth oldest in England. A research-led university based in the heart of London, King’s has 19,700 students from more than 140 countries, and 5,400 employees. King’s has an outstanding reputation for providing world-class teaching and cutting-edge research. The College is in the top group of UK universities for research earnings and has an annual income of approximately £400 million. An investment of £500 million has been made in the redevelopment of its estate.
King’s has a particularly distinguished reputation in the humanities, law, social sciences, the health sciences, natural sciences and engineering, and has played a major role in many of the advances that have shaped modern life, such as the discovery of the structure of DNA. It is the largest centre for the education of healthcare professionals in Europe and is home to five Medical Research Council Centres - more than any other university.
King's College London and Guy's and St Thomas', King's College Hospital and South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trusts are working together to create the UK's largest Academic Health Science Centre (AHSC). The AHSC will bring together the widest range of clinical and research expertise in the UK – strengths that will be used to drive improvements in care for patients, allowing them to benefit from breakthroughs in medical science and receive leading edge treatment at the earliest possible opportunity. For further information visit: http://www.londonsahsc.org
Kate Moore,Public Relations Officer (Health Schools)
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