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A medication used for autoimmune diseases could be given to treat patients with high-blood pressure

Photo: New hope for treating high-blood pressure
A Victorian-led study has found people with high-blood pressure could be given medication used for autoimmune diseases to treat their condition.

The research found inflammation-suppressing drugs used to treat rheumatoid arthritis and gout, reduced the blood pressure in mice with hypertension.

"Ultimately this could help save millions of lives and significantly reduce the global burden of disease resulting from high blood pressure," co-lead researcher Professor Grant Drummond said on Monday.

Up to 20 per cent of patients with high-blood pressure fail to have their condition controlled by existing therapies, Prof Drummond said.

These patients are then more likely to suffer debilitating or fatal heart attacks and strokes, he said.
High-blood pressure, or hypertension, affects more than one billion people globally and is the world's number one cause of disease, the World Health Organisation says.

The research team is exploring the possibility that high-blood pressure is caused by chronic inflammation.

Prof Drummond says it is vital to identify what causes high blood pressure, before more effective treatments can be found.

The research team's Dr Antony Vinh said it is testing whether lifestyle factors such as high salt and high-fat diets activate an enzyme in the kidneys and blood vessel, triggering the immune system to attack, leading to high-blood pressure.

Prof Drummond explained that by suppressing this activity and reducing inflammation, it may be possible to prevent blood vessel and kidney damage and reduce blood pressure in patients with hypertension.

"Inflammation-suppressing drugs are already used for the treatment of autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and gout and we have shown that similar drugs can be used just as effectively to reduce blood pressure in mice with hypertension," he said.

"These findings could pave the way for new treatment approaches, where drugs currently reserved for patients with autoimmune diseases are repurposed for the treatment of high blood pressure."

The research was published last month in international journal Cardiovascular Research.

It's being led by La Trobe's Research Centre for Cardiovascular Biology and Disease, with La Trobe University, the Baker Institute, the Hudson Institute and the University of Bonn in Germany.

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