Skip to main content
Skip to navigation

Hypertension Is a Major Complication for Kidney Disease Patients, says MU Researchers

Jan. 7, 2009

Story Contact:  Kelsey Jackson, (573) 882-8353,

COLUMBIA, Mo. – Approximately 26 million Americans have chronic kidney disease. An estimated 50 percent of these patients will not die of kidney failure, but from cardiovascular complications of kidney disease. In a new University of Missouri study, researchers will determine if nitric oxide, a signaling molecule regularly produced by the body, is contributing to the overactivity of the sympathetic nervous system, or the system of nerves that predominately control blood pressure. Understanding this mechanism may lead to better therapies or treatments. 

“People with kidney disease do not necessarily die of kidney failure. They more typically die of cardiovascular disease complications,” said Paul Fadel, assistant professor in the MU School of Medicine Department of Medical Pharmacology and Physiology and investigator in the Dalton Cardiovascular Research Center. “Hypertension affects as many as 80 percent of patients with chronic kidney disease and is a major risk factor for the excessive cardiovascular complications among these patients. The goal of our research is to identify the underlying mechanisms responsible for high blood pressure in patients with chronic kidney disease.”

In the study, the researchers will administer a drug to increase nitric oxide in kidney disease patients with high blood pressure to determine if nitric oxide production decreases the patients’ overactivity of the sympathetic nervous system, or the system of nerves that predominately control blood pressure.  Although nitric oxide is well known for its direct effects on the peripheral blood vessels, these findings would provide a novel role for nitric oxide in the central nervous system’s control of sympathetic nerve activity, giving doctors insight into possible therapies.

“Sympathetic overactivity may contribute to high blood pressure and accelerate the progression to complete kidney failure,” said Colin Young, a doctoral student in the MU School of Medicine. “One possible reason for high blood pressure is low nitric oxide and its potential influence to increase sympathetic nerve activity. After this study is completed, we hope to better understand the mechanisms of sympathetic overactivity in kidney disease patients and start formulating strategies to treat it.”

Other investigators on the project include Kunal Chaudhary and Adam Whaley-Connell, physicians in the Department of Nephrology in the MU School of Medicine. This study is funded by the MU Institute for Clinical and Translational Science. The Institute is a campus-wide commitment to interdisciplinary collaboration in clinical and translational science. The Institute supports the creation of an optimal academic environment for the MU research community to extend and translate recent scientific advances and embrace the value of an inclusive scientific community that engages practitioners, consumers, families and stakeholders, in the educational and research process. The goal of the Institute is to have a meaningful impact on the quality of life and health of citizens in Missouri, the nation and the world.

Fadel is a co-recipient of the 2008 Dorsett L. Spurgeon, MD, Distinguished Medical Research Award. The Award was established in 1999 as a way to recognize outstanding research achievements of faculty scientists early in their careers. It is supported by the Dr. Dorsett L. Spurgeon and Mary D. Spurgeon Trust.