Have you ever wondered why you don’t faint when you stand up? No? Well tough, you’re going to find out anyway.
A study in the journal Science, led by Scripps Research, has looked into a medical phenomenon called the baroreceptor reflex. This is the idea that neurons are able to respond rapidly to keep the blood pressure in your body steady. Exactly how the baroreceptor reflex works has been a mystery for nearly 100 years, though.
“For example, when you stand up, your blood pressure normally drops – rapidly,” a statement from Scripps noted. “Yet you don't faint thanks to baroreceptors, which tell your heart rate to increase and push more blood to your brain.”
To find out more about this works, the study managed to pinpoint two proteins that monitor your blood pressure and control the reflex. The research looked out how the cells measure a change in pressure, known as mechnotransduction, for the first time.
The study found that the proteins PIEZO1 and PIEZO2, together called PIEZOs, were responsible. Using mice, they found that these proteins maintained the blood pressure in your body. They tell your body to increase its heart rate and pump more blood in certain scenarios, like when you stand up.
When the team impaired baroreceptor function in mice, they were at a greater risk of hypertension and blood pressure variability.
“When the PIEZO proteins were introduced in mice using optogenetics, however, blood pressure and heart rate were increased, suggesting the baroreflex kicking into action," noted ScienceAlert. "It seems that both PIEZO1 and PIEZO2 are needed for the baroreceptors to work.”
Getting to the bottom of the baroreceptor reflex isn’t just important for standing up, however. The researchers also note that understanding the process better could help treat patients who suffer from low or high blood pressure.
“Tight regulation of blood pressure is essential for health,” Dr Wei-Zheng Zeng, a postdoctoral associate at Scripps Research and lead author on the study, said in the statement.
“Our motivation for this study was rooted in basic science, yet these findings could have major translational implications by improving our understanding of human health.”