In people with type 2 diabetes, inflammation inside the heart can change the way the heart uses fuel. This increases the risk of heart disease. Dr Dunja Aksentijevic wants to see if a new drug can reduce inflammation in the heart in type 2 diabetes by boosting the activity of the immune system. In the long term, this could lead to a new treatment for people with type 2 diabetes who are showing early signs of heart complications, to slow or stop them from progressing.
Background to research
Like any muscle in the body, the heart uses fuel to make the energy it needs to function properly. In people with type 2 diabetes, the fuel supply to the heart changes and this can result in an energy shortage. In turn, this can lead to heart disease.
Inflammation inside the heart often causes this change in the heart’s fuel supply. Dr Dunja Aksentijevic wants to find a way to stop inflammation in the heart from getting worse, or to prevent it from happening in the first place.
In previous research, Dr Aksentijevic has shown that a newly discovered drug can help to reduce inflammation by boosting the activity of certain immune cells. The immune system is made up of a family of immune cells, including ‘Tregs’. Tregs act as the ‘police’ of the immune system, ensuring that the other immune cells stick to their job. Dr Aksentijevic has previously shown that this new drug helps Tregs move to areas of inflammation, reduce the inflammation, and even prevent type 2 diabetes in mice.
Dr Aksentijevic and her team will test the effects of this new drug in mice with type 2 diabetes. To understand whether it can reduce inflammation in the heart, they will be comparing their results to those in mice with type 2 diabetes not treated with the drug.
She will also look to see if the drug can restore the fuel supply to the heart back to normal, and restore its energy levels. In turn, she hopes this will stop or prevent the development of heart disease.
Potential benefit to people with diabetes
It’s essential that the heart has the energy it needs to pump blood around the body, and this is even more important in type 2 diabetes where the heart’s fuel supply can shrink. If successful, this research could pave the way to studies testing the drug in people with type 2 diabetes. In the long run, this could become a new treatment to protect people with type 2 diabetes from heart complications.