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Stress gives you high blood pressure because of your immune system. T cells, those that fight infection, are also necessary for an increase in blood pressure after a period of stress, according to new research in the journal Biological Psychiatry.
The findings, based on mouse studies, suggest that the effects of chronic stress on cardiovascular health may be a side effect of having an immune system that defends us from infection. And with that hypothesis, new ways of treating high blood pressure and anxiety disorders could be developed.
“Chronic stress has long been known to have harmful effects on the immune system as well as being a risk factor for hypertension,” said Paul Marvar, lead author and postdoctoral fellow at Emory University School of Medicine. “Our goal was to examine the role of T cells in stress-dependent hypertension.”
First, researchers raised mouse blood pressure by leaving them in a small space and then putting them in a space already occupied by another mouse’s scent. This caused a short term rise in systolic blood pressure. However mice that were genetically engineered without T cells did not have an increase in blood pressure. Once T cells were reintroduced, their blood pressure went up.
“Further understanding the mechanisms underlying these observations and determining whether they may benefit people with anxiety disorders, for example post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), is a current goal of my research,” said Marvar.
“There are still many unanswered questions about clinical relevance and safety in treating hypertensive patients by targeting the immune system,” Marvar continued. “Understanding what triggers the immune response in hypertension will ultimately guide the feasibility of future clinical applications.”
Source: Emory University, ScienceDaily
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