Published on 17 July 2019

Research helps improve understanding of the effects of how blood vessels are damaged in diabetes.

A new study has looked at how cells in blood vessels work to process glucose that can then become uncontrolled in diabetes.

This in turn, could be linked to the formation of blood clots and inflammation.

Researchers from the University of Warwick, who carried out the study, said they hoped further research based on their findings could help to identify new ways to prevent organ damage from complications in diabetes.

The results of the study were recently published in Scientific Reports.

"Hyperglycaemia, or high blood sugar levels, is a complication linked with type 1 diabetes and can make people feel tired, thirsty and need to urinate regularly. It is important to keep well hydrated and other contributing factors, such as infections, inappropriate ‘sugary’ foods or missed medications are considered and addressed."

— Scientific Reports

For the study researchers looked at the impact of normal and high concentrations of the sugar glucose on human endothelial cells, which form the lining of our blood vessels.

Researchers modelled the effects of hyperglycaemia on this type of cell by increasing the amount of glucose.

The results confirmed that glucose metabolism in endothelial cells was increased in high concentrations of glucose.

They showed for the first time that this happens because an enzyme that metabolises glucose in these cells, called hexokinase-2 (HK2), degrades more slowly in high glucose concentration and thereby metabolises more glucose than normal.

Researchers were then able to correct the effects of hyperglycaemia using dietary supplements.

Researchers also discovered that the HK2 effect was the major mechanism increasing formation of a reactive glucose-derived substance called methylglyoxal (MG), known to be increased in diabetes and linked to damage to blood cells, kidneys, retina and nerves in arms and legs in diabetes – known as vascular complication of diabetes.

Lead study author Dr Naila Rabbani, of Warwick Medical School, said: “Mechanisms of organ sensitivity to damage by high glucose concentrations in diabetes are still poorly understood and urgent improvement in treatment of diabetes-related complication is needed. Our study provides a step advance in understanding these mechanisms.

“Our research has identified a likely key step, increased HK2, in the initiation of development of damage to the blood vessels in hyperglycaemia linked to vascular complications of diabetes, such as kidney disease, damage to the retina in eyes and nerves in the arms and legs, and increased risk of heart disease - the major cause of premature death in diabetes. Importantly, we showed how a new type of treatment, Glo1 inducer, can correct this and deserves consideration in the search for improved treatments for diabetes-related complications.”

The research team are now working to confirm their results and develop further evidence on the effect of HK2 and MG in cell dysfunction and organ damage in diabetes and the benefits of Glo1 inducer treatment for diabetes and diabetes-related complications.

Future research could potentially lead to new approaches to prevent organ damage in diabetes

Read the report in Scientific Reports
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