Researchers at Oregon Health & Science University’s School of Dentistry have discovered that the nerve cells controlling heart rate and blood pressure synthesize a 1) ___ known to be critically important for proper nervous system growth. The finding could someday play a significant role in the prevention of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and high blood pressure. According to the National Institutes of Health, SIDS is the leading cause of 2) ___ in children between 1 month and 1 year of age. About one in three adults in the US has high blood pressure. The new discovery was published in the January 2008 issue of the Journal of Neurochemistry. The discovery sheds light on how the nerve supply to the cardiovascular system is established during development. Someday, this discovery may help us to better understand 3) ___ developmental disorders such as SIDS. Changes in blood pressure are signaled to the 4) ___ by nerve cells called baroreceptors. The OHSU study shows that baroreceptors make a molecule called Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF), which belongs to the family of neurotrophins that play a critical role in the development and plasticity of other 5) ___ cells. Studies suggest that developmental abnormalities in nerve pathways that control the cardiovascular and respiratory system may result in SIDS. The research team found that the stimulation of baroreceptors, as experienced during an increase in blood 6) ___, leads to the release of BDNF. The study also discovered that BDNF is present at the central end of baroreceptors in the brainstem. In fact, BDNF is likely to play the most important role at the central end of baroreceptors, where they connect to second-order neurons in the blood-pressure control pathway. BDNF has previously been shown to play an important role in establishing neuronal connections in other parts of the 7) ___ system, but this is the first time it has been considered a factor in the blood pressure control system. Studies under way, indicate that levels of BDNF in cardiorespiratory nerve cells increase dramatically when blood pressure rises. This suggests a direct role of BDNF in 8) ___ of blood pressure.
ANSWERS: 1) molecule; 2) death; 3) cardiorespiratory; 4) brain; 5) nerve; 6) pressure; 7) nervous; 8) regulation