Dr. Jeffrey Isenberg of the University of Pittsburgh's Vascular Medicine Institute says they've known about the protein for 30 years, but it wasn't until recently that they discovered its impact on regulating a person's blood pressure and blood flow. The protein naturally occurs in everyone, but they found that the protein, called thrombospondin-1 (TSP1) and its receptor block activation of an endothelial based enzyme that in turn limits production of nitric oxide, an anti-hypertensive agent in our blood. That interaction prevents blood vessels from relaxing and blood pressure from dropping.
The findings are being published in the online version of Cardiovascular Research. He says their discovery could help develop drugs that interrupt the interaction between the protein and the anti-hypertensive agent. Drugs could also be developed to help boost the body's ability to make nitric oxide, which would potentially help dilate blood vessels and lower blood pressure. He says the protein regulates or decreases the function of the dilator, which in disease conditions promotes hypertension – a major risk factor in heart attacks and heart failure, stroke and kidney failure. Isenberg says the next step is to develop drugs for people; currently they are using small animal models. They may also establish experimental trials of people with abnormally elevated blood pressure and see if over long periods of time they can use the new medication to lower blood pressure.