Professor Jaggar Receives $1,850,000 to Further Hypertension Research

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Jonathan Jaggar, PhD, professor of Physiology at the UTHSC, has received a grant totaling $1,850,000 from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, a subsidiary of the National Institutes of Health.

Jonathan Jaggar, PhD, professor of Physiology at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC), has received a grant totaling $1,850,000 from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, a subsidiary of the National Institutes of Health. The award will be used to further his study on hypertension, commonly referred to as high blood pressure. The study titled, “Arterial Smooth Muscle Chloride Channels,” will be funded over a five-year period.

Dr. Jaggar’s research focuses on smooth muscle channels as they relate to blood flow in the brain. The brain requires a constant supply of blood to function properly. Blood vessels in the brain, termed “cerebral arteries,” relax and contract to modify brain blood flow. Within the walls of cerebral arteries are small muscle cells, called smooth muscle cells, which control the contraction of cerebral arteries. Vascular diseases, including high blood pressure, lead to changes in vascular smooth muscle cells that may contribute to other brain disorders, such as stroke, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Small proteins in vascular smooth muscle cells called “ion channels” regulate artery relaxation and contraction, thereby, allowing arteries to modify brain blood flow.

Dr. Jaggar, who is the principal investigator on two other grants from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, and his team discovered that a new ion channel called TMEM16A may allow chloride to flow out of vascular muscle cells and regulate cerebral artery contractility. Furthermore, they found that hypertension is associated with changes in TMEM16A channels that contract arteries.

“Hypertension reduces blood flow within the brain and may contribute to brain diseases,” said Dr. Jaggar. “Our study of this new ion channel should improve our understanding of mechanisms that regulate brain blood flow and pathological changes that lead to cardiovascular and brain diseases.” Ultimately, this work may lead to the development of novel therapies and drugs to treat high blood pressure and brain disorders that result from hypertension.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH), the nation’s medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.