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New Clue to Diabetic Heart Disease Discovered

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Scientists from King’s College London have identified a molecule that could help predict type 2 diabetes and identify diabetics that are most vulnerable to heart and circulatory disease.

The study, led by Dr Manuel Mayr, Senior Lecturer in the Cardiovascular Division and British Heart Foundation (BHF) Senior Research Fellow, is the first to analyse the ‘fingerprint’ of microRNAs, small molecules that affect the activity of suites of genes, in people with type 2 diabetes. The researchers found that the level of one particular microRNA, MiR-126, was significantly reduced in the blood of people with type 2 diabetes compared to those without, and in some people this drop in MiR-126 preceded the onset of disease.

The findings suggest that the levels of MiR-126 could be an early indication, or even a predictor, of diabetes. We already know that MiR-126 plays a role in blood vessels, so it could also explain why people with diabetes are at high risk of heart and circulation problems and help to identify who is most at risk.

Heart disease is the biggest single cause of death in the UK, causing around 91,000 deaths each year. People with diabetes are at a two- to five-fold increased risk of heart disease and it is estimated that 15 per cent of heart attacks in Western Europe are due to diagnosed diabetes. Over 5 per cent of men and 4 per cent of women in England have diagnosed diabetes. It is estimated that 3.1 per cent of men and 1.5 per cent of women aged 35 and over have undiagnosed diabetes.

Dr Mayr said: ‘It’s very important for doctors to define those diabetic patients that are the highest risk of developing cardiovascular complications. We hope that this new class of blood markers may give additional insight that we’re currently not getting from the other clinical tests.’

Professor Jeremy Pearson, Associate Medical Director at the BHF, said: ‘This is important because right now there is no quick and simple way to monitor blood vessel health. Problems go unnoticed until symptoms appear, and the first symptom could be as serious as a heart attack.’

Source: King’s College London