Researchers find out more about why diabetics are more at risk of heart disease and stroke

by Barbara Hewitt on May 17, 2017

Researchers in Australia and the United States have discovered a mechanism which could explain why people with diabetes have an increased risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke.

Platelets play an integral role in cardiovascular disease, not only in the formation of the blood clots responsible for heart attacks and stroke, but also in the progressive development of the disease.


People with diabetes have increased numbers and reactivity of platelets, which contribute to their increased risk of cardiovascular complications and now the researchers have uncovered a mechanism behind excessive platelet production.

The research, which could lead to a novel anti-platelet therapy for the treatment of cardiovascular disease as current anti-platelet therapies prescribed to patients at high risk of cardiovascular disease, such as aspirin, have been shown to be less effective in patients with diabetes.

The research, led by Associate Professor Andrew Murphy from the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute in Melbourne and Dr Prabhakara Nagareddy from the University of Alabama in the United States used a mouse model of diabetes.

The team demonstrated that high blood glucose is responsible for the increased production of platelets and the subsequent acceleration of cardiovascular disease in diabetes. Using a glucose lowering drug, dapagliflozin, one of a new class of drugs recently introduced for type 2 diabetes, the researchers were able to normalise levels of platelet production.

While these studies were able to completely control blood glucose levels, this unfortunately is not the case in people on this drug and suggests a second or complementary approach is required.

Murphy explained that the group identified the exact protein, S100A8/A9, involved in triggering this platelet response to high blood glucose and then found that a specific inhibitor of the protein, ABR-21575 (paquinimod) currently approved as a drug for systemic sclerosis, was able to prevent the exacerbated platelet production, curbing the development of cardiovascular disease.

‘With the drug already approved for another indication, it could mean a quicker route to market for use in the setting of diabetes,’ he said, adding that while these treatments have yet to be tested in clinical trials, there are already promising signs.

The team has identified increased platelet numbers and higher levels of S100A8/A9 in a group of patients with type 2 diabetes. Importantly, the researchers demonstrated a correlation between high blood glucose levels and newly formed platelets, indicating increased platelet production in these patients.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the Community and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please see your doctor before making any changes to your diabetes management plan.

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