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14 COMMUNIQU FALL 2015 RESEARCH Pictured above is a normal dilated blood vessel. Pictured below is an abnormal constricted blood vessel. Hormonal signals or talk between belly fat and blood vessels may be what causes arteries and veins in the abdomen to constrict resulting in high blood pressure. Belly fat chatter may be whats RAISING YOUR BLOOD PRESSURE by Sarina Gleason Belly fat chatter may be whats raising your blood pressure Michigan State University researchers who were the rst to suggest that high blood pressure could be caused by belly fat hormones talking with blood vessels in the abdomen have received a nearly 7 million National Institutes of Health grant to further their work. For years belly fat has been linked to high blood pressure or hypertension which increases a persons risk for cardiovascular disease. But scientists havent known exactly why. Greg Fink a professor in pharmacology and toxicology in MSUs College of Osteopathic Medicine is determined to nd out. Our basic thought is that these hormonal signals or talk between fat and blood vessels are very different in those people who have hypertension and those who dont Fink said. In order for us to gure out why this fat raises blood pressure we need to understand the messages being sent. Fink explains that there are two layers of belly fat. The top layer also known as subcutaneous fat lies just under the skin can easily be removed and isnt necessarily considered unhealthy. But the layer under that called visceral fat isnt as easy to get rid of and can be harmful because its wrapped around blood vessels and other organs in the abdomen. Too much of this bad fat is whats linked to high blood pressure heart disease and stroke Fink said. While the majority of research has focused on the long-distance conversations between fat and the brain or heart Finks research team will be focusing on the local chatter taking place between this unhealthy fat and the arteries and veins of the stomach intestines and other surrounding organs. We think this chatter makes the arteries and veins in the abdomen contract restricting blood ow and thereby raising a persons blood pressure he said. Fink plans to work with local surgeons who will help his team study the fat found in tissue samples from consenting patients and try to determine what hormones are being produced and what theyre saying. Theoretically if we can identify the local conversations taking place then we can gure out a way to change these discussions so we can lower blood pressure Fink said. Ultimately this might mean a potential new drug therapy down the road for those suffering from high blood pressure. About 70 percent of hypertension cases are linked to obesity Fink said. This research could positively affect many of these individuals if not all and reduce their risk of high blood pressure and possibly other health problems even if they cant lose weight. It has the chance of making a signicant impact on a large part of the population. Co-investigators on the ve-year research project include Stephanie Watts and James Galligan both professors in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology. Greg Fink is a pharmacology and toxicology professor at MSU whose research team is the rst to suggest that high blood pressure might be caused by belly fat hormones talking with blood vessels in the abdomen. Photo Credit Katie Stiefel