Magazine article Science News

Roll Up Your Sleeve: Hypertension Vaccine Passes Early Test

Magazine article Science News

Roll Up Your Sleeve: Hypertension Vaccine Passes Early Test

Article excerpt

A new vaccine lowers blood pressure in hypertensive people, a study shows. The finding breaks ground in a field dominated by drug therapy.

Surges in blood pressure make physical exertion possible, but chronically elevated pressure spells trouble. Scientists have entertained the idea of immunizing people against high blood pressure for decades, but it hasn't been easy. The only other vaccine to reach the testing stage in people failed to reduce blood pressure.

A vaccine may augment or offer an alternative to blood pressure medications, known to cause side effects.

Several compounds orchestrate blood pressure changes, including a small protein called angiotensin. When cleaved by an enzyme, angiotensin signals blood vessels to constrict, increasing pressure.

Researchers created the new vaccine by binding angiotensin to a harmless fragment of a virus. The protein "is then recognized by the immune system as a virus," says study coauthor Martin Bachmann, an immunologist at Cytos Biotechnology in Schlieren, Switzerland. The immune system makes antibodies against angiotensin and pulls it out of circulation.

Bachmann and his colleagues gave 48 people with mild-to-moderate high blood pressure three injections of the vaccine over 12 weeks. Some received higher doses than others. Another 24 volunteers received sham injections. All patients used devices that monitored their blood pressure regularly day and night.

Two weeks after the last shot, those getting a higher dose of vaccine averaged systolic (top number) blood pressure that was 9 points less than those getting the placebo shots, the researchers report in the March 8 Lancet. …

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