1. The increased peripheral resistance observed in established hypertension has been attributed to structural changes in the resistance vessels, which are considered to be due mainly to medial hypertrophy. This study was undertaken to examine the possiblity that structural changes in the arterial bed are genetically determined and may be causative factors in the development of high blood pressure in the spontaneously hypertensive rat.

2. The wall dimensions of aorta, renal artery and intrarenal arteries down to a distended diameter of 35 μm were studied: (a) in 14-week-old spontaneously hypertensive rats; (b) in age- and sex-matched spontaneously hypertensive rats which had been treated with captopril for two generations and had been normotensive during their complete life span; (c) in normotensive Wistar-Kyoto control rats.

3. Cross-sectional areas of the media were increased in the hypertensive rats in comparison with ‘normotensive spontaneously hypertensive rats’ and Wistar-Kyoto rats. Increased numbers of smooth muscle cells were found in the major arteries of hypertensive animals.

4. These results indicate that hypertrophy of the media is a consequence of high blood pressure rather than a genetically determined pathogenetic factor for the development of hypertension in spontaneously hypertensive rats.

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