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How does the heart’s energy change in Type 2 diabetes?

Project summary

Having Type 2 diabetes changes the way the heart generates the energy it needs to pump blood. Professor Sven Plein wants to know more about these changes, specifically in people who have narrow arteries – a common complication of Type 2 diabetes. Understanding the interaction between Type 2 diabetes and narrow arteries will help with the discovery of new, tailored treatments for people with Type 2 diabetes in the future.

Background to research

As we age, our arteries can become narrow. This leads to fat building up in the heart tissue, which makes it harder for the heart to pump blood around the body. The valves in the heart can become dangerously worn out, which can only be treated by valve replacement surgery. 

To stop this from happening, people with narrowed arteries can be prescribed fat-busting drugs to help the heart work properly again. But in people with Type 2 diabetes, the heart switches from using its usual source of energy, sugar, to using fat. In this situation, fat-busting drugs could be dangerous – as the heart’s energy source of fat is taken away.

Around 1 in 5 people with narrowed arteries also have Type 2 diabetes. We need to understand exactly how Type 2 diabetes and narrowed arteries affect the heart together, so we can an effective treatment for people with both conditions.

Research aims

Professor Sven Plein and his team will recruit people with Type 2 diabetes who are already having valve replacement surgery to treat narrowed arteries.

Using MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scanning, the team will assess the heart’s energy levels, fat levels and its ability to pump blood efficiently. They will also ask the participants to take part in a six minute walking test, to see how much exercise they can cope with. They will run the tests before the valve replacement surgery and again six months after, to look for any improvements. 

During the surgery, the surgeon will safely collect a small sample of heart tissue which the researchers can study, to provide a better idea of how this heart tissue uses fats and sugars. Altogether, the research team hopes to gain a better understanding of how the energy levels inside the heart changes in people who have both Type 2 diabetes and narrowed arteries.

Potential benefit to people with diabetes

People with diabetes are at an increased risk of heart and blood vessel complications, but people who have both Type 2 diabetes and narrowed arteries have limited treatment options due to safety concerns. It’s vital that we understand how Type 2 diabetes and narrowed arteries affect energy levels inside the heart, so we can tailor new treatments to tackle this in the future.

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