Through the inhibition of SPAK protein, María Chávez Canales, a scientist at the Biomedical Research Institute (IIBm) of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), managed to stop in animal models the retention of salt in the kidneys and high blood pressure, one of the most frequent and serious diseases of our time.
This protein, she explained, is expressed in all tissues, and has effects on the regulation of arterial hypertension, by regulating how much salt we urinate or retain. If the activity of SPAK is eliminated, the retention of salt in the kidneys is prevented and this has consequences on blood pressure. “If we excrete more salt than normal, we will keep blood pressure at low to normal levels.”
The elimination of the SPAK protein, she said, also has consequences on fat storage and body mass index, which can prevent obesity.
For this finding, the researcher attached to the Research Unit in Translational Medicine of the IIBm, in the National Institute of Cardiology Dr. Ignacio Chávez, obtained the 2019 Women in Science LÓreal-Conacyt-AMC Scholarship.
“The SPAK protein is expressed in almost all cells of mammals and other species. It is responsible for regulating the intracellular ion concentration, and does so by regulating other proteins that are in the cell membrane, responsible for allowing the entrance or removing sodium, potassium and chloride ions from the cells. SPAK mainly regulates the transport of these three types of ions,” she added.
In the award-winning project, Chávez investigates what is the mechanism by which SPAK prevents the storage of fat, and why mice that do not have that protein do not develop obesity when fed a high-fat diet. “It seems that the elimination of SPAK has good consequences, but the basic mechanisms of this process need to be understood in detail,” she acknowledged.
The results, still in the experimental phase, could be useful in the future for the clinical treatment of people with obesity and high blood pressure.
“It can be with chemical compounds, via drugs or indirect surrounding ways that modify the signaling between the circuits that allow maintaining the metabolism,” she concluded.
Source: La Jornada