Research collaboration identifies protein that senses exercise.

Understanding how a drug could induce benefits of exercise. Researchers at the University of Manchester, in collaboration with researchers at the University of Leeds, have discovered a protein called Piezo1 in the lining of blood vessels that is able to detect a change in blood flow during exercise.

During physical activity, as the heart pumps more blood around the body, the Piezo1 protein in the endothelium or lining of the arteries taking blood from the heart to the stomach and intestines senses the increased pressure on the wall of the blood vessels. In response, it slightly alters the electrical balance in the endothelium and this results in the blood vessels constricting. The narrowing of the blood vessels reduces blood flow to the stomach and intestines, allowing more blood to reach the brain and muscles actively engaged in exercise. This is ground-breaking research because it identifies for the first time a key biomolecular mechanism by which exercise is sensed.

A greater understanding of how these systems work is an important step in the development of techniques to tackle some of the major diseases affecting society including heart disease and stroke. The next phase of the project is to investigate the effect of a compound called Yoda1 that the team found mimicked the action of increasing blood flow on the walls of the endothelium which is experienced during physical activity, raising the possibility that a drug could be developed which enhances the health benefits of exercise.

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