CALCIUM and potassium are involved in the regulation of blood pressure, but one new study suggests that zinc may also have a part to play.
The researchers made this discovery accidentally while they were investigating zinc’s role in rat brain function.
If additional research validates the study’s conclusion, the findings could eventually lead to new drugs for controlling hypertension, or high blood pressure.
Doctors use a variety of strategies to help people manage hypertension. When exercise and dietary measures, such as increasing potassium intake and reducing salt intake, are not enough to keep blood pressure within acceptable limits, many drugs are available.
Each of them attempts to either reduce cardiac output or reduce peripheral resistance in the body’s arterial system. One mechanism for reducing resistance to blood flow is to relax the muscles that surround the arteries and arterioles, allowing blood to flow more freely.
“Fundamental discoveries going back more than 60 years have established that the levels of calcium and potassium in the muscle surrounding blood vessels control how they expand and contract,” say the authors of a recent study.
However, these scientists unexpectedly found that a metal, zinc, may also play a role in maintaining vascular tone.
“Zinc is an important metal ion in biology and, given that calcium and potassium are famous for controlling blood flow and pressure, it’s surprising that the role of zinc hasn’t previously been appreciated.”
Dr. Ayton adds, “Essentially, zinc has the opposite effect to calcium on blood flow and pressure.”
The study’s lead author is Dr. Ashenafi Betrie, Ph.D., and the co-senior author is Dr. Christine Wright, Ph.D. They and Dr. Ayton are all affiliated with the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health in Parkville, Australia, and the University of Melbourne, also in Australia.
The study appears in the journal Nature CommunicationsTrusted Source.
“Our discovery that zinc is also important was serendipitous because we’d been researching the brain, not blood pressure,” says Dr. Betrie.