New Discovery in Red Wine Molecule Could Lead to Better Blood Pressure Treatments

It has been long known that a compound in red wine—which is actually produced in the skin of grapes—has the capacity to combat many human diseases or conditions.  This compound is known as resveratrol, of course; and the conditions it can, supposedly, treat include heavy-hitters like cancer and even dementia.  

But while wine is one of humanity’s oldest potables, scientists have struggled for a very long time to translate [red] wine’s supposed benefits in a clinical way and formulate a successful treatment. Sure, you can take resveratrol supplements—or drink a glass of red wine every day—but we still have not understood how, or even if, the benefits can be measured. 

A new study out of King’s College London, however, attempts to reexamine resveratrol’s driving mechanism.  The British Heart Foundation funded new research which showed that resveratrol interacts with a protein in the body known as PKG1, within blood vessel walls.  As a matter of fact, resveratrol oxygenates this protein, which causes the blood vessels to relax and expand. This results in an expeditious drop in blood pressure. 

What is most interesting about this observation is that it somewhat disputes what scientists once believed about resveratrol’s mechanisms. It had been assumed that resveratrol was, simply, an antioxidant—a substance that prevents oxidation damage to cells.  The discovery, of course, is that resveratrol does the exact opposite of this.  

More importantly, perhaps, when scientists gave a dose of resveratrol to mice, they noticed a substantial reduction in blood pressure—20mmHg—in a matter of two weeks.  While we do not know if we can manage this type of result in humans, scientists rejoice that there is no blood pressure treatment currently available that can accomplish such a feat. 

As such, they are already working on a human formulation; the only problem is that an effective human-sized dose of resveratrol would be equivalent to drinking about 1,000 bottles of red wine every day. This is because resveratrol does not dissolve well and is broken down in the body before it can get to blood vessel walls.  Thus, future drug developments would have to alter chemical structures to make it more resistant to this breakdown.

At the end of the day, this work could lay a new foundation for chemically-altering resveratrol for better potency and delivery, or for developing better drugs that can use the same pathway.