Research from the University of Virginia School of Medicine (UVA) brings attention to the dangers of long-term use of blood pressure medication
Researchers are exploring the ways commonly prescribes drugs to treat high-blood pressure and heart failure could be contributing to kidney damage. Researchers say patients need to continue taking their medications however scientists are urging studies to better understand the drugs’ long-term effects.
“Our studies show that renin-producing cells are responsible for the damage. We are now focusing on understanding how these cells, which are so important to defend us from drops in blood pressure and maintain our well-being, undergo such transformation and induce kidney damage,” said Maria Luisa Sequeira Lopez MD.
“What is needed is to identify what substances these cells make that lead to uncontrolled vessel growth” said Lopez.
Causes of Kidney Damage
Chronic high blood pressure affects a billion people around the world. Researchers at the University of Virginia School of Medicine have found specialised kidney cells called renin cells play an important role. Renin is a vital hormone that helps the body regulate blood pressure.
The UVA researchers wanted to better understand why severe forms of the condition are often accompanied by thickening of the arteries and small blood vessels in the kidney, leading to organ damage.
Harmful changes in the renin cells can cause the cells to invade the walls of the kidney’s blood vessels. The renin cells then trigger a buildup of another cell type, smooth muscle cells, that cause the vessels to thicken and stiffen. The result: Blood can’t flow through the kidney as it should.
Research found, long-term use of drugs that inhibit the renin-angiotensin system, such as ACE inhibitors, or angiotensin receptor blockers, have a similar effect. These drugs are widely used for many purposes, including treating high blood pressure, congestive heart failure and heart attacks.
Long-term use of the drugs was associated with hardened kidney vessels in both lab mice and humans, the scientists found.
Although researchers found the potential dangers of the long term use of different blood pressure and heart regulation medications, these drugs can be lifesaving to patients. This research is intended to inspire a deeper look into the ways in which these medications can affect the body in the long term.
The researchers note that the medications can be lifesaving for patients, so they stress the importance of continuing to take them. But they say additional studies are needed to better understand the drugs’ long-term effects on the kidneys.