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Protecting the blood vessels in diabetes

Project summary

Blood vessels are lined with endothelial cells, which have a protective coating. This coating can become damaged in diabetes, leading to the development of complications like stroke, heart attack and kidney disease. Dr Satchell will study the coating in more detail to see if it can be used as a treatment to protect blood vessels in people with diabetes.

Background to research

In people with diabetes, blood vessels can become damaged and this can lead to serious complications like stroke, heart attacks and kidney disease. Controlling blood glucose levels and blood pressure reduce the risk of these complications, but we don’t currently have any therapies to protect blood vessels against damage.

Blood vessels have a protective gel-like coating called the ‘glycocalyx’, which can become damaged in diabetes. This coating is made up of many parts, but we don’t know which ones play the biggest protective role. Previous research suggests that a molecule called ‘heparan sulphate’ could be a vital part, but this hasn’t been proven yet.

Dr Satchell wants to study the glycocalyx coating in more detail, and see if heparan sulphate is a key component needed to keep the coating working properly. They also want to see if more heparan sulphate in the coating could prevent blood vessel damage.

 

Research aims

Dr Satchell and his team plan to see if heparan sulphate is an important part of the coating. They’re studying kidneys, as kidney blood vessels are easy to monitor.

The team will first study special mice that can’t make their own heparan sulphate, to see how this affects their kidney function. This will provide general insight into how heparan sulphate works.

After this, they’ll study the same mice, but some of them have diabetes. This will help them understand how much damage diabetes causes when heparan sulphate is there, and when it isn’t. The team can find out if heparan sulphate protects against some of this damage.

They will also study human kidney cells in the lab, making the cells produce more heparan sulphate. They will grow some of the cells in conditions similar to diabetes, for example with high sugar, to see if more heparan sulphate protects them from the effects of diabetes.

Potential benefit to people with diabetes

Blood vessel damage is a complication of diabetes that can affect many parts of the body, including the kidney, heart and eyes. Understanding if heparan sulphate plays an important role in protecting blood vessels will help scientist to develop new treatments to prevent blood vessel damage in people with diabetes.

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