Feb. 22 (UPI) -- Researchers at the University of Iowa developed a method to reverse high blood pressure in the offspring of rats with gestational hypertension.
Gestational hypertension affects up to 15 percent of pregnancies and studies have found that offspring born to hypertensive mothers have higher blood pressure in childhood and are at a greater risk of developing high blood pressure and heart disease as adults.
Researchers induced hypertension in pregnant rats in the perinatal period and measured blood pressure response in the resulting offspring at 10 weeks. The offspring were then given a hormone that elevates blood pressure. The offspring were then given the drug Captopril, which is used to treat high blood pressure in humans, from three to nine weeks of age.
"What you see is enhanced, that is, a sensitized hypertensive response in animals where mothers had been hypertensive during pregnancy," Alan Kim Johnson, University of Iowa professor, F. Wendell Miller Distinguished Professor in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences and lead author of the study, said in a press release.
The rats given the Captopril were tested for hypertension at 10 weeks and had no signs of high blood pressure.
"That means we can, in effect, deprogram them," Johnson said.
Researchers will continue to study how this could potentially translate to humans with further study of the neural and chemical changes that occur in brains of offspring born to hypertensive mothers and the exact way hypertension may be passed on to offspring.
The study was published in the journal Hypertension.