It's fairly easy to give mice hypertension. Just regularly dose them with the hormone angiotensin II. But mixing a molecule called 2-HOBA into the animals' drinking water returns their blood pressure almost to normal, vascular biologist David Harrison of the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville and colleagues have found. Now, that observation could open an innovative approach to treating hypertension in people.
Derived from buckwheat, 2-HOBA stands out because of the way it seems to work—by influencing immune cells. "The immune system is an unexpected but important player in hypertension," says vascular biologist Tomasz Guzik of the University of Glasgow in the United Kingdom. Scientists now suspect that immune cells collude with long-recognized culprits such as stress and dietary salt to drive up blood pressure. Safety tests of 2-HOBA in people are already underway, and Harrison, who holds a patent on its use for hypertension, hopes to launch a full clinical trial, which might lead to a new class of treatments that work by restraining the immune system.