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B cells and hypertension

Dr Maria Jelinic, Institution: La Trobe University

2017 Postdoctoral Fellowship

Years funded: 2018-2022


Hypertension (aka high blood pressure) is the primary risk factor for cardiovascular disease. It affects ~4.6 million Australians and in >90% of cases the cause is unknown. Thus, the clinical management of hypertension is symptom-based and non-targeted with current treatments being unsuccessful in up to 25% of patients. This highlights the urgent need for improved understanding of disease mechanisms and the development of new therapies that specifically target these mechanisms.

We have recently shown that certain types of immune cells known as "B cells" play a crucial role in blood vessel stiffening and elevated blood pressure in both humans and animal models of hypertension. Using state-of-the-art immunology techniques and genetically modified mice, we will now determine whether it is the antibody-generating function of B cells that is responsible for their actions of promoting hypertension and blood vessel stiffening.

Furthermore, we will investigate if therapies that that are known to block B cell function and suppress antibody production might be effective for the treatment of hypertension.
This project will not only enhance our understanding of how the immune system contributes to hypertension, but it should also pave the way for new treatment approaches whereby drugs currently reserved for patients with classical autoimmune diseases (e.g. rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, etc.) are re-purposed for the treatment of hypertension.

This project is co-funded with NHMRC - National Health and Medical Research Council.

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