Newswise — WASHINGTON (March 12, 2018) — Obesity is a problem that affects about 30 percent of the population in the United States. Many obese individuals are at risk of developing high blood pressure, or hypertension. This can lead to stroke, heart failure, and atherosclerosis. However, it is currently unclear what causes obesity-induced hypertension.

The National Institutes of Health recently awarded more than $2.4 million to a research team led by Colin Young, PhD, assistant professor of pharmacology and physiology at the George Washington University (GW) School of Medicine and Health Sciences, to study how cell stress in the brain could impact the risk of obesity-induced hypertension.

“We believe there are changes in the brain that occur when individuals become obese,” said Young. “We believe these changes alter how the brain communicates with, for example, the blood vessels and the kidneys, leading to the development of hypertension.”

Through this study, Young and his team want to understand what happens in the brain with obesity that might lead to alterations in stress-related and inflammation-related processes occurring within the cells that may lead to increased blood pressure. They hypothesize that when an individual becomes obese, it creates cell stress within the brain that can lead to low-grade inflammation in the brain. Young also explained that the team will look at the neurocircuitry in specific areas in the brain.

“We see that cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death worldwide and we have 30 percent of the population that’s obese,” Young explained. “If we find that these potential pathways are impacted, it might lend insight into the potential use of already available drugs that aren’t used in hypertension or obesity, to determine if they could be good candidates for treatment.”

Young is working with co-investigator Anastas Popratiloff, MD, PhD, adjunct associate professor of anatomy and regenerative biology at the GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences, who also serves as director of the GW Nanofabrication and Imaging Center.

The study, titled “Forebrain Hypothalamic Mechanisms in Obesity-Induced Hypertension,” will be funded for five years.

Media: To interview Dr. Young, please contact Ashley Rizzardo at [email protected] or 202-994-8679.


About the GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences: Founded in 1824, the GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS) was the first medical school in the nation’s capital and is the 11th oldest in the country. Working together in our nation’s capital, with integrity and resolve, the GW SMHS is committed to improving the health and well-being of our local, national and global communities.