A possible breakthrough in the battle to control high blood pressure. Researchers at Cornell University and the Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research have identified a hormone from human urine that seems to safely flush sodium out of the body.

Researchers hope the discovery could be used to develop more effective and safer treatments for high blood pressure, or hypertension.

Currently, drugs that lower sodium levels and fight high blood pressure all have serious side effects because they also reduce potassium levels, according to background offered in the study.

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Frank Schroeder, assistant scientist at BTI and co-author of the study developed a new technique for analyzing complex mixtures of small molecules, making it possible to identify the hormone.

In the study, Schroeder developed an approach based on nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy of partially purified urine. NMR spectroscopy is a powerful tool chemists use to determine the structures of unknown compounds, and has only been used for the analysis of purified compounds.

The technique revealed three completely new compounds, each of which was subsequently synthesized and injected into rats. The rats' urine was then monitored.

Two of the identified compounds, both derivatives of a common metabolite xanthurenic-acid, raised sodium levels in the rat's urine but kept potassium levels constant.

Schroeder said that this newly discovered molecule is structurally more similar to such amino acid-derived neurotransmitters as dopamine and serotonin and may also play other roles in the body.

"Now, we want to know what other functions these compounds have and whether they directly influence blood pressure," said Schroeder, in a news release.

The study was published in a recent issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.