High blood- sugar levels ‘reprogramme’ stem cells leading to greater risk of heart attacks, study reveals
High blood-sugar levels, the hall mark of diabetes, can lead to changes to the immune system which pave the way for greater risk of heart attacks, say researchers.
They found elevated levels of glucose in the blood ‘reprogrammes’ stem cells in bone marrow, which go on to be white blood cells.
These cells then become inflammatory leading to a heightened risk of fat, cholesterol and other substances which narrow arteries, restrict blood flow and can ultimately lead to heart attacks.
Robin Choudhury, professor of cardiovascular medicine at the Radcliffe Department of Medicine, University of Oxford who led the research, said: “Our study is the first to show that diabetes causes long-term changes to the immune system, and how this might account for the sustained increase in the risk of heart attack.
“We need to change the way we think about, and treat, diabetes.
“By focusing too narrowly on managing a person’s blood-sugar levels we’re only addressing part of the problem.
“Right now, people with diabetes aren’t receiving effective treatment for their increased risk of heart and circulatory disease.”
Almost five million people in the UK are estimated to have diabetes and adults with the condition have double the risk of having a heart attack.
The University of Oxford study, funded by the British Heart Foundation and published in journal Circulation, investigated the differences in white blood cells in people with and without type 2 diabetes.
Those from people with type 2 diabetes showed a greatly exaggerated inflammatory response compared to the cells from people without the condition.
Researchers also extracted stem cells from the bone marrow of mice with and without diabetes and transplanted these into mice with normal blood glucose levels.
White blood cells developed from stem cells in the bone marrow of diabetic mice had been permanently altered to become more inflammatory.
Researchers say the findings explain why people with diabetes are at increased risk of heart attack, even after their blood glucose levels are brought back under control.
Professor Sir Nilesh Samani, British Heart Foundation medical director, said: “While treatments for diabetes have improved, people with diabetes still have a higher risk of heart attacks.
“This research may provide part of the explanation for why this is the case and potentially pave the way for new treatments to reduce the risk of heart attack for the millions of people living with diabetes.”
Reference: Microsoft news: Sally Guyoncourt
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