A heart condition brought on by high blood sugar could be prevented by taking two drugs, according to new research.
Scientists from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) have studied how heart arrhythmias in patients with diabetes can be reversed, which could have implications for treating heart disease.
The study, coordinated by Professor Emiliano Medei, from the Institute of Biophysics Carlos Chagas Filho and CENABIO at UFRJ, showed that an increase in blood sugar levels causes inflammation and the production of IL-1-bete which, over a number of years, can lead to arrhythmias of the heart.
Professor Medei said: “It is noteworthy that inflammation is an important tool to fight infections, which usually ends when the ‘intruder’ is removed.
“In the case of diabetes, there is no infection. Persistent hyperglycemia stimulates the immune system to produce a constant inflammation, with great production of IL-1-beta. We found inflammation to be the link between arrhythmias and diabetes.”
Diabetes was induced in mice and other animals known to be unable to produce the inflammation required to stimulate the making of IL-1-beta.
The animals were induced to produce increased blood glucose, and the mice that were able to produce the inflammation had altered heart rates.
Those unable to produce the inflammation and therefore IL-1-beta experienced much less damage from arrhythmias, even when given substances known to increase a dysregulation in the heart rhythm called ventricular tachycardia.
To rectify the problem the research team administered two drugs known to inhibit the inflammatory process: MCC-950 and anakinra, which proved to be successful.
The drugs work to block production of IL-1-beta and protect body cells from being damaged by the effects of IL-1-beta, and were able to reverse the heart changes in the diabetic mice. They are already commonly used in the treatment of other autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis.
Prof Medai added: “I believe that the new therapeutic tools that we propose in this study are very promising to treat heart disease caused by diabetes.”
The findings have been published in Nature Communications.

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