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Study Demonstrates Novel Area of Investigation to Treat Hypertension

The Research of Nicholas Ferreri, Ph.D., was Recently Selected as Editor’s Pick in the AHA Journal, Hypertension

May 08, 2023
Nicholas Ferreri, Ph.D.
Nicholas Ferreri, Ph.D.

“Many hypertensive patients, especially African Americans, exhibit sensitivity to salt in association with an increase in cardiovascular disease and uncontrolled blood,” said Dr. Ferreri. “The kidney is a major regulator of blood pressure whereby exaggerated stimulation of specialized proteins expressed by cells in the kidney that control the movement of sodium and chloride (cotransporters) increases blood pressure associated with an increase in dietary salt intake.” 

The ongoing studies in Dr. Ferreri’s laboratory are designed to uncover novel mechanisms that regulate one of these proteins known as the sodium, potassium, chloride cotransporter (NKCC2), which has been associated with sex- and race-dependent aspects of salt-sensitive hypertension in humans via a pathway involving the cytokine tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-a). 

“Although TNF-a is best known as an inflammatory cytokine, it also has important actions that are essential for the functioning of a normal immune response,” said Dr. Ferreri. “Similarly, our studies have shown that this cytokine exhibits functions that regulate physiological processes within the kidney in addition to being a mediator of renal damage.” 

This study is the first to demonstrate that NKCC2 gene expression and blood pressure are regulated by a microRNA (miRNA)-dependent mechanism in a TNF-a-dependent manner that orchestrates an epigenetic mechanism along the renal tubular system.

“We were thrilled to be honored by the journal, Hypertension, which publishes numerous outstanding articles each month. Much of the credit for our article belongs to Shoujin Hao, M.D., Ph.D., [research assistant professor of pharmacology and lead author on the study] whose dedication and steadfast efforts have sustained our laboratory during the pandemic and beyond,” said Dr. Ferreri.