Dr. Rhian Touyz is investigating molecular changes in blood vessels that may contribute to hypertension

January 1, 2008

Hypertension (high blood pressure) is a major killer. One of the great ironies of the disease is that because it often remains asymptomatic, it has little or no immediate effect on an affected individual's quality of life. For this reason, hypertension is known as "the silent killer." In Canada, hypertension affects more than five million adults and is foremost among the risk factors for cardiovascular disease, stroke, and renal failure.

Despite progress in treatment, the fundamental causes of hypertension remain elusive. It is considered a disease of the vasculature (blood vessels) because its hallmarks include altered vascular contractility and changes in arterial structure. Vascular smooth muscle cells, which constitute the major portion of the vessel wall, are critical in these processes because they are dynamic and plastic in nature: they contract, relax, migrate, secrete, grow, and die.

Dr. Rhian Touyz studies the molecules and intracellular signalling events responsible for changes in vascular smooth muscle cell function in hypertension. She believes that her research findings will contribute to greater insights and understandings of the mechanisms causing hypertension and that the knowledge will be applied in strategies to improve the management and therapy of hypertension-possibly even preventing it and its resultant heart, brain, and kidney damage.

Dr. Touyz is a Senior Scientist at the Kidney Research Centre in the Chronic Disease Program at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute. She is also a Professor in the Department of Medicine at the University of Ottawa, an active physician in Hypertension Clinic within the Division of Nephrology at The Ottawa Hospital and holder of the Canada Research Chair in Hypertension. For more information, see Dr. Touyz’s OHRI Scientist Profile or her Canada Research Chair Profile.