Julian Paton wins Royal Society-Wolfson Award for hypertension research
19 September 2006
Professor Julian Paton has won a Royal Society-Wolfson Research Merit Award, one of the Royal Society’s most prestigious awards.
Professor Julian Paton in the Department of Physiology has won a Royal Society-Wolfson Research Merit Award, one of the Royal Society’s most prestigious awards. The highly competitive award is only given to individuals of proven outstanding research ability, so that universities can either attract or retain these internationally recognsied scientists who might otherwise look elsewhere for higher salaries.
Professor Paton’s research investigates hypertension – high blood pressure. Known as the 'silent killer' because it develops without us knowing, hypertension is one of the world's biggest killers and affects one in three of us. Once hypertension is established, it may eventually lead to a number of serious illnesses such as stroke, kidney disease, heart attacks and angina. But in 95% of sufferers, the cause of hypertension is not known. And even though many people take drugs that aim to lower their blood pressure, it is still above the normal level in more than two thirds of these patients in the UK.
Professor Paton says that the lack of effectiveness of current treatments has “motivated me to understand in greater detail how our body controls blood pressure normally, and what changes when hypertension develops”. He discovered that there are genetic differences in the brains of patients with high blood pressure versus normal individuals. This suggests that genes in the brain, and the proteins they produce, are partly to blame for high blood pressure. If this is the case, then many currently available drugs will continue to be ineffective in most patients since they are not targeted at this organ. So understanding the function of the genes in the brain that are altered in hypertension is essential, not only for treating the disease more effectively, but also in its prevention in the future.