Zinc may very well be key to new diabetes therapies

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Researchers at the University of St. Andrews say a better understanding of how our bodies handle zinc could lead to improved treatment for people with diabetes.

The team of scientists, funded by the British Heart Foundation (BHF), has studied the causes of potentially dangerous blood clots and why they are more common in people with diabetes.

Diabetes is a major risk factor for heart and circulatory diseases. Around 300,000 adults in Scotland have been diagnosed with diabetes and an estimated thousands more people have undiagnosed type 2 diabetes.

Because of the damage to blood vessels, people with diabetes are up to three times more likely to develop conditions such as heart attacks, strokes, and vascular dementia.

Researchers led by Dr. Alan Stewart of the University of St. Andrews School of Medicine studied the role of zinc in these processes. Zinc is an essential nutrient that performs many functions in the body. One of its functions is to support the blood clot after an injury.

In some people with underlying health conditions, such as: However, people with type 2 diabetes or obesity, for example, may clot more often if not necessary. This leads to blood vessel damage and serious health conditions such as stroke and thrombosis (DVT).

The study published in Chemical Science found that the transport of zinc in the blood in patients with type 2 diabetes is impaired due to the increased fatty acid levels. These fatty acids prevent zinc from being transported in the normal way, allowing zinc to interact with clot-activating proteins and trigger potentially dangerous blood clots.

Although more research is needed, they believe their study will identify a new way in which vascular problems can occur in certain individuals.

The main researcher and lecturer Dr. Stewart said, “Our research suggests that by changing the way you handle zinc, increased levels of fatty acids in the circulatory system can contribute to the formation of unwanted and potentially dangerous blood clots.

Ultimately, we hope that these results will support the development of new therapeutic strategies to reduce the risk of vascular disease in patients with type 2 diabetes and other diseases associated with high levels of plasma fatty acids.

The BHF is the UK’s largest independent funder of cardiovascular disease research. This project is one of the thousands that BHF is funding to save and improve lives.

James Jopling, Head of BHF Scotland said: “Diabetes is a major risk factor for heart attacks and strokes – conditions that can seriously affect the quality of life.

“It is therefore important that we understand more about it and know how to deal with it. Research projects like this one in St. Andrews help educate how we treat patients, identify people at particular risk and ultimately find new ways to save and improve lives. “

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