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Research Fellows Directory

Julian Paton

Professor Julian Paton

Research Fellow


University of Bristol

Research summary

There are almost 1 billion people worldwide with high blood pressure. My research looks at how the brain controls blood pressure and why it allows it to escape to dangerously high levels making one in three people hypertensive. Hypertension is the world's biggest silent killer and leads to devastating lethal diseases including heart failure, heart attacks, kidney disease and stroke. If you ask a consultant what causes high blood pressure, he or she will tell you that it is unknown in 95% of the cases. I believe the brain is to ‘blame’ for high blood pressure. We know that the central nervous regulation of blood pressure is altered in hypertensives, the questions I am addressing are why and when does this occur? The latter will allow us to determine whether the changes are causative to the pathology rather than a result of it. We have performed a genomic analysis of genes that are altered in hypertension in an animal model of human hypertension. These data have revealed novel insights in to potential new explanations as to why people become hypertensive. They have also revealed novel druggable targets. There are indications from these data suggesting that the vessels supplying blood to the brainstem (the region that controls blood pressure) are inflamed and releasing chemicals that alter brain cell activity controlling blood pressure. Also, these cerebral vessels are narrow restricting blood flows at a given pressure. We are using magnetic resonance angiography to look at the prevalence of narrower blood vessels supplying the brain with blood in humans with hypertension. In hypertensives, we found normal levels of oxygen in the brain but only when blood pressure was high; when blood pressure was corrected the brainstem had dangerously low levels of oxygen. We have found that the activity in nerves supplying blood vessels to control their diameter is increased in hypertensives and have shown that this causes vessels to constrict more than those from animals with normal pressure. My research is timely as remarkably a significant number of people on anti-hypertensive therapy remain hypertensive (20-30%) suggesting alternative strategies are required urgently.

Grants awarded

Functional validation of novel genomic clues in the brainstem for hypertension

Scheme: Wolfson Research Merit Awards

Dates: Oct 2006 - Sep 2011

Value: £100,000

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