Millions of diabetics could benefit from a new life-saving drug treatment

Type 2 diabetes can be a 'devastating diagnosis' says expert

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Brilliant minds from the University of Oxford have found that molidustat could be a life-changing drug treatment for diabetics who are at risk of having a heart attack and the complications it entails. During a myocardial infarction (i.e. a heart attack), the blood supply to the heart is reduced or cut off, starving the heart of oxygen; this is known as hypoxia. When a person has diabetes, the heart cells are less able to tolerate hypoxia and therefore die more quickly, causing more damage to the heart muscle.

Recovery from a heart attack includes the natural process of angiogenesis – where new blood vessels grow around dead tissue to ensure a good blood supply to the heart.

However, in diabetics, this process is reduced, which is believed to be a “critical step” in the development of heart failure.

Funded by the British Heart Foundation (BHF), the researchers noted that molidustat increases the levels of a protein called Hypoxia-Inducible Factor 1 (HIF).

HIF protein is said to help oxygen-starved cells to adapt and survive.

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Dr Lisa Heather, BHF intermediate research fellow at the University of Oxford, said: “Even with optimal management, people with type 2 diabetes still have a higher risk of developing heart and circulatory diseases.

“They’re then more likely than people without diabetes to develop heart failure after a heart attack.

“Despite this, there are no treatments available to help the diabetic heart recover after a heart attack.

“We’re hopeful that we’ve identified a drug that can address this unmet need and improve outcomes for people with diabetes after a heart attack.”

Professor Metin Avkiran, associate medical director at the BHF, commented on the research project.

“Heart and circulatory diseases are the leading cause of death in people with diabetes, a condition which affects nearly five million people in the UK.

“These promising results suggest that drugs which stabilise HIF could become a new treatment to reduce the risk of heart failure after a heart attack in people with diabetes.”

The study’s details

When the researchers exposed human heart cells with insulin resistance (a characteristic of type 2 diabetes) to low levels of oxygen, they found that the increase in HIF protein levels was much lower than in control cells without insulin resistance.

Yet, when the insulin resistant cells were treated with molidustat, the researchers saw an increased level of HIF protein and activation of its target genes.

Next, the research team then investigated the impact of molidustat on heart function.

They did this by exposing the hearts from rats, who did and did not have diabetes, to low levels of oxygen.

When the hearts were treated with molidustat, the heart function recovered at the same strength as the non-diabetic hearts.

When the rats with diabetes were treated with molidustat, there was evidence of increased growth signals to promote new blood vessels.

How to reduce your risk of a heart attack if you have diabetes

“Blood vessels are also damaged by high cholesterol (blood fats) and high blood pressure,” Diabetes UK pointed out.

Thus, in order to reduce your risk of a heart attack, it is important to get these health conditions under control.

This can be achieved by exercising regularly, being a non-smoker, and eating a healthy diet.

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