Hypertension is estimated to cause 7.6 million premature deaths worldwide each year - about 13.5% of the total number of all deaths. Hypertension is a chronic condition that contributes to the development of numerous cardiovascular diseases, including heart failure, vascular dementia, and stroke. hile increased blood pressure levels are positively and continuously related to increasing cardiovascular risk, the precise mechanisms that lead from hypertension to ill health are poorly understood.
Notwithstanding, the adverse effects of hypertension are mediated by changes in the structure and function of the artery wall. A key contributor to the changes that occur in the artery wall is dysfunction in the innermost layer of cells in blood vessels known as the endothelium. The endothelium is a pivotal regulator of vascular tone, cell proliferation, blood clotting and immune responses. Dysfunction in the endothelium underlies the debilitating vascular changes that accompany hypertension and atherosclerosis.
The endothelium operates normally by converting various extracellular stimuli to specific vascular functions through changes in endothelial cytosolic Ca2+ concentration. However, despite the importance of endothelial Ca2+ signaling to the control of vascular function there is surprisingly little known in the changes that occur in hypertension.
Using new methods we are visualizing the underlying dysfunctions in the endothelium that accompany the vascular problems in hypertension and are establishing new targets for therapeutic drug development.