Nearly half of adults in the United States have hypertension, a condition that raises the risk for heart disease and stroke, which are leading causes of death in the U. S. At Baylor College of Medicine, Dr. David J. Durgan and his colleagues are dedicated to better understand hypertension, in particular the emerging evidence suggesting that disruption of the gut microbiota, known as gut dysbiosis, can have adverse effects on blood pressure. "Previous studies from our lab have shown that the composition of the gut microbiota in animal models of hypertension, such as the SHRSP (spontaneously hypertensive stroke-prone rat) model, is different from that in animals with normal blood pressure," said Dr. Durgan, Assistant Professor of Anesthesiology at Baylor. The researchers have also shown that transplanting dysbiotic gut microbiota from a hypertensive animal into a normotensive (having a healthy blood pressure) one results in the recipient developing high blood pressure. "This result told us that gut dysbiosis is not just a consequence of hypertension, but is actually involved in causing it," Dr. Durgan said. "This ground work led to the current study in which we proposed to answer two questions. First, can we manipulate the dysbiotic microbiota to either prevent or relieve hypertension? Second, how are the gut microbes influencing the animal's blood pressure?" To answer the first question, Dr. Durgan and his colleagues drew on previous research showing that fasting was both one of the major drivers of the composition of the gut microbiota and a promoter of beneficial cardiovascular effects. These studies, however, had not provided evidence connecting the microbiota and blood pressure.
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