People with Type 2 diabetes are at a higher risk of developing heart disease. Dr Matthew Gage is studying how insulin affects the most common cause of heart disease: the build-up of plaques in blood vessels. In turn, this research could help us to find new ways to reduce the risk of heart disease in people with Type 2 diabetes.
Background to research
One of the main features of Type 2 diabetes is insulin resistance, which usually gets worse with age. Insulin resistance is where cells around the body need much more insulin than usual to work properly and absorb glucose from the blood.
Immune cells called macrophages are involved in heart and blood vessel disease, as they play a role in clogging up blood vessels. Dr Gage and his team used our funding to show that macrophages change and become resistant to insulin when they get older.
Dr Gage believes that it could be beneficial to make macrophages resistant to insulin, as old and insulin resistant macrophages are less able to clog up blood vessels.
The researchers have found a specific molecule, called SHIP2, which can make cells more resistant to insulin.
Dr Gage wants to find out if reducing the amount of SHIP2 in macrophages can reduce the risk of heart and blood vessel problems.
He and his team will investigate what happens when the amount of SHIP2 is reduced in macrophages, but not in other types of cells. They want to find out how macrophages behave on their own, and how lowering SHIP2 levels affects the heart and blood vessels.
Potential benefit to people with diabetes
People with Type 2 diabetes are at a higher risk of developing heart problems, so we need to find ways to reduce this risk. If successful, this research could open doors to developing new drugs that reduce plaque build-up in blood vessels and protect against heart disease.