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Drug could improve recovery after a heart attack in people with Type 2 diabetes

New research jointly funded by Diabetes UK and the British Heart Foundation has revealed a new way to protect people with Type 2 diabetes from the harm caused by a heart attack, using a pre-existing drug.

Researchers from the University of Oxford have found that a drug could help people with Type 2 diabetes recover after a heart attack by activating a protein called HIF. HIF usually protects heart cells from the damage caused by low oxygen levels during a heart attack.

Fat accumulation in the heart muscle stops the HIF protein from becoming active in people with Type 2 diabetes. This means that a heart attack can cause more damage and make recovery times slower, leading to an increased risk of heart failure in the future. 

Protecting the heart from harm

This new research has moved our understanding forward by showing that an existing drug known to activate HIF can prevent damage after a heart attack in Type 2 diabetes. 

The researchers studied the hearts of rats with Type 2 diabetes. They found that the existing drug improved their recovery by almost half (46%) when compared to those not treated with the drug. 

This work involved a small number of animals, so we need more research to understand how this could apply to people with Type 2 diabetes in the future. But it’s particularly exciting because there are several drugs already known to activate HIF, and they’re currently being tested in late-stage clinical trials to treat anaemia. This means that the research has the potential to move more quickly, as safe drugs which can be used in people already exist. 

Anna Morris, Assistant Director of Research Strategy and Partnerships at Diabetes UK, said: “It’s vital that we find ways to reduce the harm caused by diabetes. It’s still early days, but this research is helping us to understand how to improve recovery after a heart attack, and we’re looking forward to seeing how this could help people with Type 2 diabetes in the future. 

“For now, the best way to reduce your risk of a heart attack is to keep your blood glucose, blood pressure and blood fat at healthy levels, seek help to stop smoking, and by being active and eating a healthy, balanced diet.”

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