- Associated Press - Friday, May 8, 2015

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) - A study led by a University of Missouri professor has identified the enzyme blamed for obesity-related high blood pressure.

The university says in a news release that researchers compared obese and lean rats. Lead study author William Durante says researchers discovered that obese animals had elevated levels of an enzyme named arginase that breaks down an amino acid named arginine.

As a result, the obese animals were deficient in the amino acid, which is needed to generate nitric oxide. The gas is important because it relaxes blood vessels and lowers arterial blood pressure.

The school says the finding could lead to new treatment options.

Funding came from the National Institutes of Health and the American Heart Association. The study was recently published in the official journal of The Obesity Society.

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