'Designer' Rats Yield Clues to Hypertension

The rodents should reveal much about links to menopause, salt sensitivity

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THURSDAY, Sept. 22, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Improving on nature, U.S. scientists say they've designed laboratory rats that can tell us more about how declining post-menopausal estrogen levels affect hypertension, heart failure and kidney damage.

As well as being sensitive to the effects of estrogen, these specially bred rats are also sensitive to salt, another key player in hypertension and stroke.

"By changing a single gene that is involved in hypertension, varying effects were revealed that we never expected," Mark Chappell, senior researcher in the Hypertension and Vascular Disease Center at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, said in a prepared statement.

"These rats will allow us to study salt-sensitivity in hypertension as well as explore how estrogen depletion affects several body systems," he added. "And this is just the tip of the iceberg. We're just starting to discover what this animal model can teach us."

Research by Chappell and his colleagues were to be presented this week at a meeting of the American Heart Association, in Washington, D.C.

"These projects suggest that estrogen may be protective, no only in renal function and development of hypertension, but in heart function. Next, we will look at different therapies, including different formulations of estrogen that may lack some of the deleterious side effects associated with estrogen therapy," Chappell said.

More information

The National Library of Medicine has more about estrogen.

SOURCE: Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, news release, Sept. 22, 2005

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