T cell editing

A new protein known as Beclin-1 could provide new ways to address heart disease in diabetes patients, according to new research.

The study, which was conducted by researchers at the University of Otago, New Zealand, found that a process called autophagy – which leads to the destruction of cells – is uncontrolled in the hearts of diabetic mice.

This, the researchers theorised, could be responsible for the higher rates of heart disease in people with diabetes, both type 1 and type 2. The risk of other cardiovascular conditions is also increased, including stroke and high blood pressure.

The researchers then compared 35 type 2 diabetes patients to patients without diabetes, and they found that the patients with diabetes had higher levels of uncontrolled autophagy thanks to the activation of the Beclin-1 protein.

Based on these findings, the researchers lowered the expression of Beclin-1 in rat heart cells that were exposed to high glucose. When they did, autophagy became less prevalent and cell death rates dropped.

The findings could be used to develop new and more effective treatments for diabetes-related heart disease.

“Given that the growing diabetes epidemic is set to create major global economic and social costs in coming decades, it is very exciting to have opened up a new research avenue that could greatly decrease the disease’s burden,” said Dr. Rajesk Katare.

“We found that these molecular alterations begin in the diabetic heart from an early stage of the disease – before any clinically identifiable symptoms – so blocking them could be useful in combating cardiovascular complications in diabetes.”

The findings were published in the International Journal of Cardiology.