Scientists have long known that tumor necrosis factor (TNF) is linked to inflammation, but new research has shed light on how it also significantly influences blood pressure.
The research, completed at the Ted Rogers Centre for Heart Research at the University of Toronto, revealed that TNF directly impacts how the smallest arteries in the heart constrict. The study, which is the first to suggest that TNF can regulate blood pressure, was published in Nature Communications.
"This new role for TNF re-brands the traditional cytokine and firmly places it as a central regulator of microvascular myogenic responsiveness, one of the most important known regulatory mechanisms in the cardiovascular system," said Jeff Kroetsch, the lead author on the study, in a statement.
However, the findings could be consequential for patients on anti-inflammatory drugs that target TNF. Many people take these types of medication to fight rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis, but the findings suggest that lowering levels of TNF with medications could increases the likelihood of experiencing an adverse cardiac event.
"This new role for TNF underlines the need for caution when administering anti-TNF therapeutics, as they could lead to unpredictable blood pressure responses and increase cardiovascular stress," said Steffen-Sebastian Bolz, an author on the study and a professor of physiology at the university, in a statement. "We suggest that patients taking anti-TNF therapies be continuously monitored and treatment terminated if blood pressure disturbances are observed.”