Obesity is a serious health problem affecting approximately one-third of the adult population in the United States. Obese individuals have an increased risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease, including hypertension. A recent study led by a University of Missouri researcher has identified the enzyme responsible for obesity-related hypertension – a finding that could lead to new treatment options.
“Hypertension is a condition in which arterial blood vessels are exposed to persistently elevated blood pressure, making the heart work harder to pump blood to the body,” said William Durante, a professor of medical pharmacology and physiology at the MU School of Medicine and lead author of the study. “Hypertension can lead to severe health issues such as heart attacks, kidney failure, organ damage, and weakened or ruptured blood vessels. By comparing genetically obese rats to lean rats, we discovered that obese animals were deficient in the amino acid arginine due to elevated activity of the enzyme arginase, which breaks down this molecule.”
Although arginase is present throughout the body, it is primarily found in the liver. Its role is to assist in the breakdown of ammonia, which is eventually flushed out during urination. However, Durante’s team found significantly increased arginase activity within blood vessels and in the blood of obese rats compared to lean animals.