A new study has revealed that blocking the action of an enzyme called arginase can help treat type 2 diabetics who also suffer from coronary artery disease (CAD), also known as coronary heart disease.
Researchers at the Karolinska Institutet and Karolinska University Hospital in Sweden studied the function of arginase in the blood vessels of patients with both CAD and type 2 diabetes and found that it prevents the formation of a protective molecule, nitric oxide, in the walls of the arteries.
Increased arginase activity can lead to endothelial dysfunction – a condition in which the endothelium (inner lining) of blood vessels does not function normally. According to the scientists, this plays an important role in the early development of atherosclerosis (build up of fatty deposits in the artery walls) and cardiovascular complications in type 2 diabetes.
To examine the effect of arginase inhibitio, the team applied a substance already known to block the manganese-containing enzyme and found that it significantly improved blood vessel function in patients with both CAD and type 2 diabetes.
However, they also noted that the inhibitor did not have the same effect on non-diabetic CAD patients and had no effect at all on healthy control subjects.
The team concluded: “Arginase inhibition markedly improves endothelial function in patients with CAD and type 2 diabetes suggesting that increased arginase activity is a key factor in the development of endothelial dysfunction.”
Lead researcher Professor John Pernow said: “The fact that we could demonstrate the presence of arginase in several types of cell in the vessel wall gives us an entirely new explanatory model for the development of complications in these patients.”
Pernow added that a larger study is now being planned to confirm the results, which could lead to the development of new anti-diabetic treatments using arginase inhibitors.

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