NKF Researcher Studies Connection Between Steroids and High Blood Pressure

New York, NY
December 4, 2007

Julie Goodwin has a built-in bias. She prefers children over adults. At least, when it comes to illness. "Children have no control over their illnesses, and in some cases, adults do," says Goodwin, a fellow in pediatric nephrology at Yale New Haven University Hospital. "And yet, children handle illness in such a more graceful way, which makes me want to help ease their pain and find cures for them."

To that end, the recently married Goodwin, who admits to spending more time with her lab mice than her beloved husband (but she's working on it!), is intent on finding out why steroids cause high blood pressure. "Steroids are a common treatment for many illnesses in pediatric kidney disease - from transplant to lupus to nephrotic syndrome," says Goodwin, who was reared in Needham, Mass. "There are very few studies that evaluate medication in children and even fewer that examine specific outcomes related to a particular disease, such as in kidneys."

Goodwin, 32, is thrilled to have received an NKF grant because the money allows her the freedom to do her research. It's time well spent: She has discovered that a receptor in the kidney, called the glucocorticoid receptor (GR), may be important in mediating the increased blood pressure. She has managed to 'knock-out', or eliminate, in one group of mice, the GR in the vascular smooth muscle, the muscle that lines the arteries and causes them to contract and relax. The lab mice without GR do not get high blood pressure when given steroids. That could mean, she posits, that GR in the vascular smooth muscle may be one of the sites through which steroids cause high blood pressure.

"It's very exciting," she says. "If we can determine why steroids cause hypertension, we can develop therapies to prevent it. That would be so wonderful!" The bonus: She would spend a bit more time with her new husband.