Skin, the largest organ, plays a crucial role in regulating blood pressure and heart rate, scientists have found in a study conducted on mice.
The researchers from the University of Cambridge in the UK and the Karolinska Institute in Sweden exposed mice to conditions with low-oxygen in order to investigate the role skin plays in the flow of blood through small vessels.
The mice which lacked in one of two proteins in the skin (HIF-1a or HIF-2a), showed an effect on the heart rate, blood pressure, skin temperature and general levels of activity.
The study that was published in the journal eLife, revealed that when there are changes in the amount of oxygen available in the environment, skin helps regulate hypertension and heart rate.
In areas of high altitude, or in response to pollution, smoking or obesity, the heart tissue is starved of oxygen and the blood flow to that tissue increases. In such situations, the increase in blood flow is controlled in part by the 'HIF' family of proteins.
Randall Johnson, a professor at the University of Cambridge, said, "Given that skin is the largest organ in our body, it perhaps shouldn't be too surprising that it plays a role in regulation such a fundamental mechanism as blood pressure".
However, the study suggests that we may need to take a look at other organs and tissues in the body and see how they, too, are implicated, in controlling blood pressure.