Chilean researchers develop new test to diagnose hypertension

The technology tackles the problem that causes the illness – which causes high blood pressure and affects more than one billion people worldwide – nearer its source, by measuring hormone levels in urine samples.

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A diagnostic test developed by Chilean researchers could help scientists diagnose the origin of hypertension, and therefore provide a more effective treatment for its cure.

Chilean researchers Carlos Fardella, Alexis Kalergis and Luis Michea of the Millennium Institute of Immunology and Immunotherapy, part of two of Chile´s main universities Universidad de Chile and Universidad Católica, expect to see the test in Chilean health centers this year.

The system aims to revolutionize the way people cope with the illness, which is considered one of the leading causes of death in Chile and affects about one billion people worldwide. Hypertension is usually triggered in adults over 40 years old and affects around 30 percent of the adult population.

The endocrinologist and lead researcher, Dr. Carlos Fardella, explained to Chilean newspaper Diario Financiero how the test works. It begins by taking urine samples to measure levels of the hormone aldosterone, which is responsible for the reabsorption of water and potassium from kidney; or cortisol, which is associated with stress.

When these hormones reach high levels, he explains, they produce an inflammation of the blood vessels, making it activate the body’s immune system. The body’s response to the inflammation causes increased blood pressure.

“The test allows treatment to aim at the root cause of the increased blood pressure as opposed to just normalizing it,” said Fardella, adding that this will be able to determine if the disease is chemically- and hormonally-driven or not.

Another benefit of the new technology, he says, means that therapy for hypertension will cost less. “Reducing the cost of treating the disease is important. It is possible that the tests will cost a bit more, but this will be transformed into an ‘investment’, as the patient gets better more quickly,” he said.

The new development is the latest in a line of recent Chilean scientific innovations, such as an edible immunization against Hepatitis C and Cholera, a space simulation to mimic conditions on the surface of Mars, and a non-invasive test to diagnose Alzheimer’s.