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The Making of Medicine

Are Blood Pressure Drugs Causing Kidney Damage?

New research from our Ariel Gomez, MD, and Maria Luisa Sequeira-Lopez, MD, suggests that blood pressure drugs, including the widely known ACE inhibitors, may contribute to kidney damage with long-term use.

The drugs appear to contribute to thickening of the blood vessels and small arteries in the kidney, reducing blood flow. This occurs because the drugs cause specialized kidney cells, called renin cells, to invade the walls of the kidney's blood vessels, the researchers found. The renin cells then attract another cell type, smooth muscle cells, causing the blood vessels to thicken and stiffen.

Long-term use of the drugs was associated with hardened kidney vessels in both lab mice and humans, the researchers determined. They're calling for clinical trials to better understand what effects long-term use of the drugs may be having in patients.

For now, patients prescribed the drugs should continue to take them, Dr. Gomez and Dr. Sequeira-Lopez stress. The medicines have real, concrete benefits, and more research is needed to better understand their long-term effects.

The scientists hope their research will eventually lead to ways to counteract any unwanted effects on the kidney.

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