Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute looking at new ways of treating heart disease in people with diabetes

Heart disease is one of the major complications associated with diabetes, however some of the first line treatments used to reduce a person’s risk of heart disease, don’t work as well in people with diabetes.

This problem is a major focus of research being conducted by Dr Brian Drew and his colleagues at the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute and supported by the Diabetes Australia Research Trust.

Diabetes, Dr Drew says, often leads to an increase in ‘bad’ cholesterol levels which contributes to the risk for heart disease in these people.

“The primary drugs used to lower cholesterol levels and reduce cardiovascular risk are statins. These drugs are generally effective in people who don’t have diabetes, but they are far less effective in people with diabetes,” he says.

“This is a problem because people with diabetes are three to four times more likely to develop cardiovascular disease than people without diabetes.

“What we’re working towards is a new drug target that would be effective in reducing bad cholesterol levels in people with diabetes.”

Using high tech genetic screening, Dr Drew’s team has identified a protein which they call DDL1, which could play a role in regulating cholesterol levels differently to the way way current medications such as statins, work.

“We want to understand if this protein, DDL1, can alter cholesterol levels and we will be testing this in preclinical models,” he says.

“It’s never been associated with lowering cholesterol levels before so we are breaking new ground.

“We hope that any new therapy could also work for people who experience some of the major side effects of statins like muscle soreness.”