get $9.3 million to study diabetes link with heart disease
By Catherine Seigerman Wolz
with diabetes are four times as likely to develop heart disease,
which accounts for three quarters of deaths of diabetics, but
researchers have not yet proven why. As the number of diabetic
Americans soars past the current estimate of 16 million, according
to the American Diabetes Association, scientists are looking at
the link between both diseases, starting at the cell level.
of the largest such efforts has begun this month at the U.Va.
Health System with a five-year, $9.3 million grant from the
National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute at the National Institutes
Jerry L. Nadler, Kenneth R. Crispell Professor of Internal Medicine
and chief of the Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism, and
researchers from the U.Va. Heart
Center and Department of Bioengineering will investigate why
diabetics have higher incidence and death rates from heart disease,
mainly atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries, as well as
lower recovery rates from procedures such as angioplasty.
goal of the study is ultimately to develop new medications or
gene therapy approaches to prevent heart disease due to diabetes,
study will focus on a gene called 12-lipoxygenase (12-LO), an
enzyme that generates inflammatory molecules. When cells are exposed
to high levels of sugar or insulin in the blood, as occurs in
people with diabetes, 12-LO produces inflammatory molecules that
can damage the blood vessels and lead to atherosclerosis.
believe 12-LO is one key enzyme causing the heart complications
related to diabetes, and no one has yet found a way to block it
with any known medications, Nadler said.
test the role of this enzyme, U.Va. researchers developed a ribozyme
that acts like molecular scissors and can be targeted
to disable the 12-LO gene. The researchers can then find out if
blocking 12-LO will protect the blood cells from damage and destruction.
am very excited about this study because it shows the close relationship
between endocrinology and cardiology, and that clinicians in these
two fields can work together with outstanding basic science researchers.
At the University, resources in all of three of
these fields are excellent, Nadler said.