Study Results Show Link Between Diabetes and High Blood Pressure

Investigators find that a small protein cell glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) couples the body’s control of blood sugar and BP.

A small protein cell glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) has been linked to the body’s control of blood sugar and blood pressure (BP), study results from the universities of Bristol, United Kingdom, and Auckland, New Zealand, show.

The study results may provide an answer to the question of why so many individuals who have hypertension also have diabetes.

“We’ve known for a long time that hypertension and diabetes are inextricably linked and have finally discovered the reason, which will now inform new treatment strategies,” Julian Paton, director of Manaaki Mãnawa - the Centre for Heart Research at the University of Auckland, said in a statement.

The research, which was published online ahead of print in Circulation Research, involved contributions from collaborating scientists in Brazil, Germany, Lithuania, and Serbia, as well as New Zealand and the United Kingdom.

GLP-1 is released from the wall of the gut after eating and acts to stimulate insulin from the pancreas to control blood sugar levels.

GLP-1 also stimulates a small sensory organ called the carotid body, located in the neck, according to the recent findings.

The University of Bristol group used an unbiased, high-throughput genomics technique called RNA sequencing to read all the messages of the expressed genes in the carotid body in rats with and without high blood pressure. This led to the finding that the receptor that senses GLP-1 is located in the carotid body but less so in hypertensive rats. “Locating the link required genetic profiling and multiple steps of validation. We never expected to see GLP-1 come up on the radar, so this is very exciting and opens many new opportunities,” David Murphy, professor of experimental medicine from Bristol Medical School: Translational Health Sciences, said in the statement.

The carotid body is the point where GLP-1 acts to control both the blood sugar and BP, which

is coordinated by the nervous system, he said.

Individuals with diabetes and/or hypertension have a high risk of life-threatening cardiovascular disease. Even when receiving medication, many individuals remain at high risk, given that most medications treat only the symptom but not causes of these diseases.

Controlling BP for individuals with high blood sugar is difficult, but these findings could help reduce both diseases together, as well as cardiovascular risk, Rod Jackson, an epidemiologist at the University of Auckland, said in the statement.

Drugs targeting the GLP-1 receptors have been approved to treat diabetes, Audrys Pauža, a British Heart Foundation-funded PhD student in Murphy’s lab at the Bristol Medical School, said in the statement.

The drugs also help reduce BP, but the mechanism is not well understood, Pauža said.

Investigators are planning translational studies in humans to bring the discovery into practice.

The research shows many novel targets for ongoing functional studies that the investigators anticipate will lead to future translational projects in human individuals with diabetes and hypertension.

The study was funded by the British Heart Foundation and the Health Research Council of New Zealand.


Sweet pressure – scientists discover link between high blood pressure and diabetes. EurekAlert. News release. February 1, 2022. Accessed February 1, 2022.