Sonkusare Lab Explores why Obesity Causes High Blood Pressure

Researchers Swapnil K. Sonkusare, left, Matteo Ottolini, right, and their team conducted a study that could lead to better treatment for hypertension in obese people. (Photo by Dan Addison, University Communications)

Researchers at the University of Virginia School of Medicine have discovered why obesity causes high blood pressure and identified potential ways of treating that form of high blood pressure.

Sonkusare and colleagues found that a protein on the membranes surrounding endothelial cells allows calcium to enter the cells and maintains normal blood pressure. Obesity, it turns out, affects this protein, called TRPV4, within tiny subsections of the cell membrane. Sonkusare calls these faulty subsections “pathological microdomains.”

“Under healthy conditions, TRPV4 at these tiny microdomains helps maintain normal blood pressure. We, for the first time, show the sequence of events that lead to a harmful microenvironment for calcium entry through TRPV4,” he said. “I think the concept of pathological microdomains is going to be very important not just for obesity-related studies, but for studies of other cardiovascular disorders as well.”

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