Low levels of stem cell factor (SCF) is linked to a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, according to new research.
The study found that low levels of stem cell factor can be caused by diabetes. Finding new ways to boost levels of SCF in people with diabetes could reduce the risk of diabetic heart disease.
Heart disease is the cause of death for 80 per cent of people with diabetes. Of all the complications of diabetes, heart disease is the most common. Diabetic heart disease can occur when high blood glucose levels combine with free fatty acids in the blood – a process that can change the formation of blood vessels. The lining of the blood vessels may thicke, which can impair blood flow.
The researchers examined data from 384 participants who had experienced a coronary event, and 409 participants who had not. They found, among other things, that smokers and people with diabetes had lower levels of SCF in their circulation. Low levels of SCF in the blood was linked to more severe outcomes in participants with atherosclerosis.
“The existence of stem cells with the ability to turn into mature vascular cells has been known for several years but their role and importance has not been clear,” said Dr. Maria Wigre, lead author of the study.
“Our study provides evidence that these cells have an important role in the protection against vascular degenerative diseases predisposing to myocardial infarction and stroke. We also show that smoking and diabetes can have a negative effect on the reparative capacity of these cells. We hope our findings may open opportunities for the development of novel therapies stimulating the activity of these repair processes.”
The findings were published in the Journal of Internal Medicine.

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