Our skin plays a surprising role in controlling blood pressure and heart rate

Skin controlling blood pressure

Skin plays a surprising role in controlling blood pressure and heart rate

Our skin plays a surprising role in helping to regulate blood pressure and heart rate. A team of researchers from UK and Sweden explain, in mice we found that the skin responds to levels of oxygen in the environment, which influences blood pressure levels. In the United States, around 75 million adults face high blood pressure.

The condition arises when blood pushes against the wall of the arteries with too much force. This can damage the lining of the arteries, which increases the risk of heart attack, stroke, and heart disease.

According to Randall Johnson from University of Cambridge many hypertension cases arise with no known cause.

Prof. Johnson, says, most research in this area tends to look at the role played by organs such as the brain, heart and kidneys, and so we know very little about what role other tissue and organs play.”

HIF proteins

However, the previous studies have shown that blood flow to a tissue increases when it is starved of oxygen. This increase in blood flow controlled in part by the ‘HIF’ family of proteins.

For their study, researchers set out to determine how oxygen starvation affects blood flow in the skin, and whether this influences blood pressure. The team experimented on genetically engineered mice that they are unable to produce certain HIF proteins in the skin.

They found two proteins (HIF-1α or HIF-2α) in the mice skin. When compared to normal mice the response to low levels of oxygen changed and that affected their heart rate, blood pressure, skin temperature and general levels of activity.

In addition, the researchers showed that the response of normal, healthy mice to oxygen starvation more complex than previously thought. However, the blood pressure and heart rate rise in the first ten minutes, and followed up to 36 hours where blood pressure and heart rate decrease below normal levels. After, 48 hours blood pressure and heart rate levels had returned to normal.

Loss of the HIF proteins or other proteins involved in the response to oxygen starvation in the skin, was found to dramatically change when this process starts.

Researchers said, the findings suggest that our skin’s response to low levels of oxygen may have substantial effects on the how the heart pumps blood around the body.

More information: [eLIFE]