Essential hypertension is a complex multifactorial disease process that involves the interaction of multiple genes at various loci throughout the genome, and the influence of environmental factors such as diet and lifestyle, to ultimately determine long-term arterial pressure. These factors converge with physiological signaling pathways to regulate the set-point of long-term blood pressure. In hypertension, structural changes in arteries occur and show differences within and between vascular beds, between species, models and sexes. Such changes can also reflect the development of hypertension, and the levels of circulating humoral and vasoactive compounds. The role of perivascular adipose tissue in the modulation of vascular structure under various disease states such as hypertension, obesity and metabolic syndrome is an emerging area of research, and is likely to contribute to the heterogeneity described in this review. Diversity in structure and related function is the norm, with morphological changes being causative in some beds and states, and in others, a consequence of hypertension. Specific animal models of hypertension have advantages and limitations, each with factors influencing the relevance of the model to the human hypertensive state/s. However, understanding the fundamental properties of artery function and how these relate to signalling mechanisms in real (intact) tissues is key for translating isolated cell and model data to have an impact and relevance in human disease etiology. Indeed, the ultimate aim of developing new treatments to correct vascular dysfunction requires understanding and recognition of the limitations of the methodologies used.
Hypertension Research / Vol. 40, No. 4, pp.311-323