British scientists say they have found a new way to regulate hypertension (high blood pressure).
They believe their discovery offers hopes of new drugs to combat strokes and heart attacks.
Hypertension is a very common problem in this day and age and one in every four adults is estimated to suffer from the condition.
Although there are many powerful drugs already available on the market designed to deal with hypertension few manage to achieve target blood pressure levels.
But the scientists at King's College London believe they have found a new way to deal with high blood pressure which involves a process called oxidation.
Oxidation in the past has largely been seen as harmful rather than doing any good and it is widely recognised that free radicals and oxidants, such as hydrogen peroxide, can cause cell damage.
But the researchers say oxidation is central to normal cell function.
Protein kinase G (PKG) is an important protein in all tissues, but in the cardiovascular system it plays a fundamental role in blood pressure regulation.
Nitric oxide produced within blood vessels is known to be crucial in this process.
The researchers have found a way in which the protein PKG can be regulated independently of nitric oxide and the discovery opens up opportunities for the design of new drugs to combat high blood pressure.
The team discovered that oxidants such as hydrogen peroxide cause a bond to form between two amino acids which, in turn, activates PKG; this in turn then leads to a lowering of blood pressure.
Dr. Philip Eaton, who led the King's team, says the research could lead to the development of drugs which activate this new pathway.
The researchers now plan to explore the role of this new pathway in the events leading to a heart attack.
Experts say the research is exciting and the team's novel discovery opens up opportunities for the design of new drugs to combat high blood pressure.
The research is published in the journal Science.