The muscles that regulate blood pressure


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Low blood pressure (hypotension) or high blood pressure (hypertension) are risk factors for many diseases and affect more than 20% of the global population. How blood pressure is regulated is part of the research done in the Heppenstall group at EMBL Rome

In today’s Picture of the Week, you can see the blood flowing inside an artery (blood labelled in red). The blood vessel is encircled by numerous small vascular smooth muscle cells (yellow). These muscle cells are fundamental to regulating blood flow and so are very important in blood pressure control. When they are activated, they contract. The vessels then shrink, leading to an increase in blood pressure. 

Vascular smooth muscle cells contract in response to different stimuli coming from neurons and blood vessel cells. The focus of current research is to understand better the interaction between blood vessels and the nervous system, since this is fundamental to keeping blood pressure in a normal physiological range.

Credit: Sam Brown / Laura Castaldi / Chiara Morelli / EMBL

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