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Studying the veins to improve heart bypass

Project summary

Vascular smooth muscle cell dysfunction and Type 2 diabetes: Role of DNA damage and miR-145

Dr Karen Porter will work to understand the precise mechanisms that cause and sustain damage to smooth muscle cells in the veins of the leg. This could inform the development of new treatments to reduce the failure of heart bypass operations that rely on such veins to overcome cardiovascular problems.

Background to research

People with diabetes are at an increased risk of developing cardiovascular complications such as heart disease, and many ultimately require bypass surgery to help restore blood flow to the heart. The most frequent form of this procedure carried out in people with Type 2 diabetes involves grafting thea person's own leg vein into their heart. The success rate for this technique is disappointingly poor compared to people without diabetes. Cardiovascular complications of diabetes persist even when blood glucose is well controlled. Dr Karen Porter and her team have shown that smooth muscle cells in the leg vein possess distinct characteristics (such as signs of premature aging and DNA damage) that prevent the vein from working effectively in a heart bypass operation. 

Research aims

This research aims to understand the precise mechanisms that cause and sustain damage to smooth muscle cells in veins. The researchers will study smooth muscle cells grown in the lab from the leg veins of people with and without Type 2 diabetes. This will enable them to explore potential differences in DNA damage and DNA repair pathways and investigate the mechanisms involved. 

Potential benefit to people with diabetes

This research will help us to understand how particular molecules contribute to and maintain problems in smooth muscle cells that prevent leg veins from working effectively in heart bypass surgery. It could inform the development of new treatments to reduce the failure of heart bypass operations, which is a major problem in people with Type 2 diabetes. Ultimately this work should help to reduce the number of bypass operations that fail and improve the health and quality of life of people who have diabetes and coronary heart disease.

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