Differences in Cell Response Could Explain Higher Rates of Hypertension in African-Americans

Renee Cree, EurekAlert, August 29, 2011

A key difference in the way that cells from African-Americans respond to inflammation could be an answer to why this group is disproportionately affected by hypertension, something that has eluded scientists for many years.

In a study published this month in Vascular Health and Risk Management, lead author Michael Brown and his team tested the effects of TNF-ά, a protein that causes inflammation when cells are damaged, on endothelial cells–which line blood vessels–in both African-Americans and Caucasians, to determine whether the inflammation affected the cells differently.

Among African-American cells, there was a nearly 90 percent increase in the production of endothelial microparticles, small vesicles that are released during inflammation. Individuals with hypertension have been shown to have higher levels of these microparticles in their bloodstream. Among Caucasians, there was only an eight percent increase in their production.

Brown said that although follow-up research needed to be done, “it appears that the endothelial cells in African Americans are more susceptible to the damaging effects of this inflammation.” Brown is the director of the Hypertension Molecular and Applied Physiology Laboratory at Temple’s College of Health Professions and Social Work.

Brown’s research is unique in that it focuses on studying risk of hypertension at the cellular level; most research focuses on the clinical or physiological aspect. For more than 10 years, Brown has been trying to unlock the genetic reason behind the higher rates of hypertension and cardiovascular disease among African Americans.

Brown’s research includes an exercise component, to test whether physical activity can reverse or prevent the damage done by hypertension at the cellular level.

“In our human study we have pre-hypertensive African-Americans, and we find this level of endothelial impairment. Knowing so early how inflammation can affect cells means we can be at a place to intervene before they go on to develop hypertension,” said Brown. “That intervention could be lifestyle modification, diet and exercise to improve vascular health.”

Other authors on this study are Deborah Feairheller, Sunny Thakkar, Praveen Veerabhadrappa and Joon-Young Park of the department of kinesiology. Funding for this study was provided by the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute at the National Institutes of Health.

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  • CDE

    So, the legacy of slavery doesn’t cause hypertension, it causes a 90 percent increase in the production of endothelial microparticles.

  • Gene

    I honestly believe that given a choice to return to the Old Plantations of the South many blacks would eagerly go.

    I think it might have been their crowning moment of happiness in America?

    They just can’t make it on their own or even with all the special HEP they have been given. People from all over the World come to America and become successful but blacks just keep slipping behind. Albert Sweitzer said after spending 45 years trying to HEP blacks in Africa ” It just can not be done, these creatures are a sub species of humanity who could never live in peace among any civilized nation”

    When are whites going to admit this is true the evidence is everywhere.

  • Madison Grant

    For decades we’ve been hearing that racism was responsible for causing hypertension in those poor, innocent blacks.

    Maybe the $PLC should place these scientists on a hate groups list; after all, they appear to be downplaying prejudice against people of color.

  • Anonymous

    It might be interesting to ponder whether enduring dietary differences among varied evolved groups of humans reflect to a significant extent evolved genetic differences/incidences/ and not merely the impacts of environment and market influences, trade routes, etc.

  • Anonymous

    To live in the south as I do, all you have to do is go to grocer to see that food stamps are working all to well. You will see black women in the range of 400 pounds with a half a dozen kids buying two buggies of pork trimmings,colored sugar water and assorted processed crap. Food stamps are working. Keep for pressure going up on them god knows its going up on our people.

  • NBJ

    “In our human study we have pre-hypertensive African-Americans, and we find this level of endothelial impairment. Knowing so early how inflammation can affect cells means we can be at a place to intervene before they go on to develop hypertension,” said Brown. “That intervention could be lifestyle modification, diet and exercise to improve vascular health.”

    No, no no. Hasn’t he heard? Black women can’t excercise because it will mess up their hair.