Researchers may have discovered why diabetes leads to heart disease, despite intensive lifestyle interventions. Scientists from the Karolinska Institutet and Karolinska University Hospital have found a key enzyme known as arginase could be responsible for plaque formation and artery constriction that leads to angina for type 2 diabetics.
Arginase blocks nitric oxide (NO) that is naturally produced in the body and essential for keeping blood vessels relaxed. Diabetes complications occur when blood vessels become constricted from plaque formation or atherosclerosis.
Recently, researchers found even with interventions like weight loss, medications and exercise, heart disease risk remained high for people living with the disease.
When the researchers gave patients with type 2 diabetes and angina a known arginase inhibitor they noted a significant improvement in blood vessel functioning. The treatment had no effect on healthy participants used as controls, or on patients with angina who were not diabetic. The study included 48 people.
The researchers are planning larger trials in hopes of developing new diabetes treatments. Arginase inhibitors might help prevent a variety of diabetes complications. The presence of the enzyme that blocks nitric oxide to lead to constricted blood vessels could explain why diabetes is a leading cause of stroke and heart attack.
November 27, 2012