Immune mechanisms have been recognized to have a role in the pathogenesis of hypertension, vascular disease and kidney damage in humans and animals for many decades. Contemporary advances in experimentation have permitted a deeper understanding of the mechanisms by which inflammation and immunity participate in cardiovascular disease, and multiple observations have demonstrated strong correlations between the discoveries made in animals and those made in patients with hypertension. Of note, striking phenotypic similarities have been observed in the infiltration of immune cells in the kidney and the development of end-organ damage in patients and animal models with sodium-sensitive hypertension. The available data suggest that an initial salt-induced increase in renal perfusion pressure, which is likely independent of immune mechanisms, induces the infiltration of immune cells into the kidney. The mechanisms mediating immune cell infiltration in the kidney are not well understood but likely involve tissue damage, the direct influence of salt to stimulate immune cell activation, sympathetic nerve stimulation or other factors. The infiltrating cells then release cytokines, free radicals and other factors that contribute to renal damage as well as increased retention of sodium and water and vascular resistance, which lead to the further development of hypertension.
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