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13. Renin from Mast Cells: Something Unique

Roberto Levi and Randi SilverRoberto Levi, Pharmacology, and Randi Silver, Physiology and Biophysics, Weill Cornell Medical College, discovered that renin, a kidney-secreted enzyme crucial to blood pressure regulation, is also synthesized and secreted by the heart’s mast cells, cells that control many of the body’s allergic reactions. Renin breaks down a precursor, angiotensinogen, to form angiotensin, a major culprit in the development of cardiovascular diseases. The discovery that renin is produced outside the kidneys could revolutionize the therapeutic approach to these conditions. Mast cells, normally present in small numbers in all organs, are best known for their role in allergies, shock, wound healing, and defense against pathogens. Increased numbers of mast cells are found in many pathological conditions, including cardiomyopathy and congestive heart failure. The researchers believe these cells may constitute a significant source of renin outside of the kidneys, at the organ level.

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