Getting to the heart of it

People living with diabetes are two to four times more likely to develop heart disease but there are currently no specific treatments for people with diabetes-related heart disease.

This is a problem Dr Miles De Blasio from the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute is trying to solve and he thinks the answer may already be with us – in our hearts.

“People living with diabetes have reduced amounts of a protective protein called adiponectin,” Dr De Blasio says.

“One of the functions of proteins like adiponectin is to protect the hearts’ function from the complications of diabetes.

“The problem is we don’t really understand why this protein is reduced in some people.”

Dr De Blasio said a key to understanding this was looking at the protein’s signalling – the process that tells the body to produce more or less of the protein – specifically in the heart.

“We want to work out how we can increase adiponectin signalling so it can help lead the body’s fight against diabetes-related heart disease,” he said.

What does all this mean for people with diabetes?

Dr De Blasio says his research could pave the way for a gene therapy which could involve a single injection designed to encourage the body to increase its own adiponectin signalling and, ultimately, help the heart protect itself.

Dr De Blasio thanked Diabetes Australia for its support.

“I’m very grateful to the Diabetes Australia Research Trust and the supporters who allow this Trust to do its good work,” Dr De Blasio said.

“Research would be much harder without their generous support.”