When Drugs Fail

For a small percentage of the approximately 65 million Americans with high blood pressure, medications or lifestyle changes have little impact on their condition. "As a result, extreme high blood pressure significantly increases their risk for cardiovascular disease or death," says Dr. Fred Weaver, chief of the division of vascular surgery at the Keck School of Medicine of USC and a faculty physician with USC's Cardiovascular Thoracic Institute.

Now, USC surgeons are testing an implantable device that sends electrical impulses to the brain to activate the body's own blood pressure control system, eliminating the need for drugs. As part of the Rheos Pivotal Trial, they performed the first implant of the medical device on the West Coast. After initial activation of the device, the recipient's blood pressure dropped by 45 points. "This treatment takes advantage of the function of the body's natural pressure sensors to reduce blood pressure and improve cardiovascular function," says Weaver, who is lead investigator of the clinical trial.

-USC Health Magazine

A Hard-Wired Appetite

If you have trouble losing weight despite your best efforts, it's possible that you have been prone to obesity since infancy.

Recent research on animal models by USC scientists found that obesity-prone rats developed fewer of the brain connections that control feeding and weight regulation in the first few weeks of life, as compared to obesity-resistant rats, says Richard B. Simerly, Ph.D., professor of pediatrics at the USC Keck School of Medicine.

The difference in brain circuits might make it more difficult for individuals to regulate their appetite and body weight. The culprit? Evidence points to an abnormality related to leptin, a hormone that promotes development of brain regions controlling hunger. The research was reported in Cell Metabolism and conducted at the Neuroscience Program of the Saban Research Institute of Childrens Hospital Los Angeles, which Simerly directs.

-USC Health Magazine

page 42, 6/9/2008

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