A drug that reverses the harmful effects of paracetamol overdose could be used to help lower the risk of heart disease among people with type 2 diabetes, a new study has revealed.
The research, conducted by Professor Ian Megson and colleagues at the University of the Highlands and Island’s Department of Diabetes and Cardiovascular Science, was based on the effects of the licensed drug N-acetylcysteine’s on blood platelets.
In people with type 2 diabetes, blood platelets – a key component of blood clots that underpin heart attacks and some forms of stroke – have depleted reserves of an antioxidant called glutathione.
However, the researchers found that a single daily dose of N-acetylcysteine returned glutathione levels to normal and cut indicators of blood clot formatio, thus reducing the risk of heart disease.
They also discovered that N-acetylcysteine only worked in patients with low glutathione levels, which means doctors would be able to identify exactly which patients would benefit the most and target the drug where it would be most effective.
Prof Megson said the results, which are published in the journal Diabetologia, represent an “important early step” in finding new, alternative drugs to aspirin.
“Aspirin has long been recognised to be useful in helping to prevent heart attacks, but it has recently been found to be largely ineffective in patients with diabetes before there is evidence of heart damage,” he explained.
“We are now in the hunt for further funding to take the therapy to larger trials to establish its potential in patients with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.”
Sandra MacRury, professor of clinical diabetes at the University of the Highlands and Island (UHI), added: “Patients with type 2 diabetes have an increased risk of all types of vascular disease even when high blood pressure and cholesterol have been treated and we know that aspirin is really only useful in patients who have already had a heart attack, stroke or circulation problem.”
“The important finding we have made in this study raises the possibility of preventing these problems by offering a new treatment to patients at risk at an earlier stage.”

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