Researchers Implicate Suspect In Heart Disease Linked To Diabetes
People with diabetes are at high risk of developing heart disease. Despite knowing this, scientists have struggled to trace the specific biology behind that risk or find ways to intervene. Now, UNC School of Medicine researchers have hunted down a possible culprit -- a protein called IRS-1, which is crucial for the smooth muscle cells that make up veins and arteries.
According to a study published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, too little of IRS-1 causes cells to revert to a "dedifferentiated" or stem-cell like state, and this may contribute to the buildup of plaque in the heart's arteries, a condition known as atherosclerosis, which increases the risk of heart attack, stroke, and other forms of heart disease.
"When diabetes is poorly managed, your blood sugar goes up and the amount of this protein goes down, so the cells become subject to abnormal proliferation," said senior author David R. Clemmons, MD, Sarah Graham Kenan Professor of Medicine at the UNC School of Medicine. "We need to conduct more studies, but we think this cell pathway may have significant implications for how high blood glucose leads to atherosclerosis in humans."
The research could bring scientists one step closer to finding drugs to help stave off heart disease in people with diabetes, who are twice as likely to have heart disease or experience a stroke, as compared to people without diabetes. People with diabetes also tend to experience major cardiac events at a younger age.
The study focused on the cells that form the walls of veins and arteries, known as vascular smooth muscle cells. The Continue reading