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U looks to treat high blood pressure

February 20, 2001

Some MSU scientists are looking to make a breakthrough in the fight against high blood pressure.

Dr. Donna Wang, professor of medicine, has been researching blood pressure and its effects on cardiovascular diseases like hypertension - commonly known as high blood pressure - for more than 14 years.

“Hypertension has been studied for a long, long time but we still can’t define the cause of the disease,” Wang said.

“Right now there are many developments of new technology in genetics that provide a great advantage for us to study a complex disease like hypertension.”

The research is focused around the sensory nerves and their role in regulating blood pressure. The sensory nerves send information to the central nervous system and release a potent combination of water and sodium into the blood stream.

“If you control the salt intake, blood pressure can be controlled,” Wang said.

Through years of study, researchers have developed a model in which a certain chemical will selectively destroy or impair the sensory nerves.

“We anticipate that our model will contribute to our knowledge of salt sensitivity and blood pressure regulation,” Wang said. “We certainly hope that eventually the result of this study will provide insight into development of a treatment.”

Dr. David Kreulen, a professor of physiology and neurology and ophthalmology, has worked with Wang on the project for about a year and a half.

Kreulen said his role in the project is researching signals sent by sensory nerves from the kidney to the nervous system.

“Basically we want to get a fundamental understanding of the molecular changes that regulate blood pressure,” Kreulen said. “Understanding each system on a molecular level gives us the hope that we can advise treatments (for the disease) rather than just treating the symptoms.”

Cardiovascular diseases are the No. 1 killer in the U.S. and the world, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Dr. Donald DiPette, chairman of of the Department of Medicine, said Wang’s research and ideas are innovative.

“MSU’s faculty has had a long-standing history of conducting leading research in the field of cardiovascular diseases,” DiPette said. “Not only is this project important to the nation because of the interest of cardiovascular diseases, but in addition, Dr. Wang brings expertise and enthusiasm in this research area to the MSU community.”

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