GW Researcher Receives Grant to Study Connection Between Stress, High Blood Pressure and the Neuroimmune System

Released: 21-May-2014 12:00 PM EDT
Source Newsroom: George Washington University
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Newswise — WASHINGTON (May 21, 2014) – Paul Marvar, Ph.D., assistant professor of pharmacology and physiology at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, was awarded a $721,435 grant from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute to study stress-induced hypertension and its effects on the neuroimmune system. This grant will support further understanding of why those with psychological disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), have a higher risk of developing high blood pressure.

Over the next three years, Marvar will study the link between stress, hypertension, and immune dysfunction over time. Using mouse models, he hopes to discover what particular genes and factors contribute to these relationships. For example, some research has shown that a patient with PTSD has an enhanced autonomic nervous system and increased nerve activity, though it is not understood how the nervous system becomes dysfunctional in the first place and how this may impact the immune system.

Marvar and his research team believe this hyper-arousal may lead to enhanced immune cell activation, causing damage to blood vessels, kidney, and areas of the brain that control blood pressure.

“Aspects of our behavior, environment, and stresses are key to my motivation in understanding how these things influence hypertension, or high blood pressure,” said Marvar. “Currently, this is an area not well understood, in terms of the mechanisms and underlying contributions to these disorders.”

A better understanding of the mechanisms involved would be especially meaningful to those with hypertension who do not respond to blood pressure medications. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, out of the 67 million people in the U.S. living with hypertension, about half of those individuals have their blood pressure adequately controlled.

This funding is the second part of a prestigious two-part transitional award, originally starting as a National Institutes of Health Pathway to Independence Award, or K99 grant. This grant has now transitioned to a R00 grant.

Media: To arrange an interview with Dr. Marvar, please contact Anne Banner at 202-994-2261 or abanner@gwu.edu.

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