Immune System To Blame For High Blood Pressure Due To Stress

According to new research, T cells—best known for their role in fighting infections—may be one of the key players in elevated blood pressure brought on by psychological stress. In fact, the presence of those cells appears to be necessary for the development of stress-related hypertension.

Researchers subjected two groups of mice to two hours of stress a day for a week by placing them in a small space and then in a room scented by other mice. The first group, with a normal, functioning immune system of T cells, experienced a temporary increase in systolic blood pressure as a result of the stress, but the second group, which had been engineered to not produce any T cells, showed no such increase. Furthermore, injecting T cells into the genetically engineered mice made their blood pressure responsive to stress once again.

The same group that conducted this study had previously linked T cells to the effects of both salt and the hormone angiotensin on blood pressure, but this was the first result to show a physiological response based on T cell activity to a purely psychological stressor.

The implications for both anxiety and hypertension treatments are wide-ranging but include the possibility of using drugs already developed to combat high blood pressure, like angiotensin receptor blockers or angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors, to prevent the physical effects of anxiety and stress. It may also open the way for new treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder.

Source: Biological Psychiatry
Photo: Pixabay

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