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Why so many people suffering from high blood pressure also have diabetes, study answers

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A protein found in the blood sugar and blood pressure may offer a new treatment for hypertension and diabetes patients, says new research.

An international team led by the universities of Bristol, UK, and Auckland, New Zealand, has finally solved the long-standing mystery of why so many individuals with high blood pressure (commonly known as hypertension) also have diabetes (high blood sugar).

The significant new discovery demonstrates that glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) is a tiny protein cell that relates the body’s management of blood sugar and blood pressure.

“We’ve known for a long time that hypertension and diabetes are inextricably linked and have finally discovered the reason, which will now inform new treatment strategies,” says Professor Julian Paton, senior author of the study.

After eating, GLP-1 is produced from the gut wall, which stimulates the pancreas to produce insulin, which helps to regulate blood sugar levels. This was previously known, however it has recently been discovered that GLP-1 also stimulates the carotid body, a tiny sensory organ in the neck.

In this study, the researchers analyzed all the signals of the expressed genes in the carotid body in rats with and without high blood pressure using an unbiased, high-throughput genomics technique called RNA sequencing. This led to the discovery that the GLP-1 receptor is found in the carotid body, but not as much in hypertensive rats.

“Locating the link required genetic profiling and multiple steps of validation. We never expected to see GLP-1 come up on the radar, so this is very exciting and opens many new opportunities,” adds Professor David Murphy, one of the senior authors.

Professor Paton further adds: “The carotid body is the convergent point where GLP-1 acts to control both blood sugar and blood pressure simultaneously; this is coordinated by the nervous system which is instructed by the carotid body.”

Hypertensive and diabetic patients are at a higher risk of developing life-threatening cardiovascular disease. A considerable number of individuals will remain at high risk even after getting treatment. This is because most drugs simply address the symptoms of high blood pressure and diabetes, not the underlying reasons.

“We’ve known that blood pressure is notoriously difficult to control in patients with high blood sugar, so these findings are really important because by giving GLP-1 we might be able to reduce both sugar and pressure together, and these two factors are major contributors to cardiovascular risk,” according to Professor Rod Jackson from the University of Auckland.

Source: 10.1161/CIRCRESAHA.121.319874

Image Credit: Getty

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