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New link between diabetes and heart damage

New link between diabetes and heart damage
16th May 2016

A new study has provided further information on the impact diabetes can have on the heart, which could help to improve treatment and reduce the number of people who die from diabetes-related issues.

Complications with the heart are the leading reason for death among diabetics, but the new study has identified the specific mechanism that is involved in a common form of heart damage found in people with diabetes.

Experts from the University of Texas Medical Branch, Baylor College of Medicine, University of California San Diego and the University of Texas at Dallas looked at the causes of diabetic cardiomyopathy.

The condition is a disorder of the heart muscle that can lead to heart failure and is part of the reason why people with diabetes are between two and five times more likely to develop cardiovascular diseases than people who are not diabetic.

Although this is a significant problem, the causes of this cardiac disorder are not very well understood, and these could be key to developing better treatments and ways to diagnose these conditions earlier.

Published in the journal Cell Reports, the study focused on RNA, which provides the blueprint for making the protein building blocks of cells. The RNA is then divided to create mRNA, which is used to build proteins. Mistakes with this division of RNA is linked to a number of diseases and it can trigger the development of the wrong or harmful proteins.

Previously, the researchers had shown that the levels of the protein - called RBFOX2 - responsible for regulating this division of RNA is much higher in diabetic heart tissue.

In the new study, they wanted to see how RBFOX2 affected some of defects seen in diabetic hearts and what this meant for overall heart health and function.

The team found that RBFOX2 binds to 73 per cent of the RNA that are mis-spliced in diabetic heart tissues. This was found to get in the way of normal processes in the heart, such as programmed cell death and calcium handling, which is important for regulating the heartbeat.

Dr N. Muge Kuyumcu-Martinez, lead author and assistant professor in the department of biochemistry and molecular biology at the University of Texas Medical Branch, said the findings could help to develop new tools to diagnose, prevent or treat diabetic cardiomyopathy in the future.

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