Researchers uncover cellular process that increases amputation risk in diabetics
The smallest units of the human genome may have a major impact on the amputation risk of individuals with type 1 or type 2 diabetes. A team of UK researchers has found that certain types of micro-RNA molecules may cause damage in the vascular system of diabetics, which can lead to amputation.
The investigators from the University of Bristol reported their findings in Circulation,
the journal of the American Heart Association. They examined the impact of diabetes-like conditions on endothelial cells, which line blood vessels. These cells play an important role in the generation of new vascular tissue.
The study showed that persistently high blood sugar levels led to increased production of the molecule micro-RNA 503. This compound was shown to inhibit the activity of endothelial cells, making the formation of new vascular tissue impossible.
This has major implications for amputation risk in diabetics. Long periods of high blood sugar levels eventually lead to arterial damage. If endothelial cells are not functioning properly, this damage will not be repaired, and the affected parts of the body will be deprived of oxygen-rich blood. This increases the risk of non-healing ulcers and amputation.
However, the team found that they were able to stop this process in mice. They showed that it is possible to inhibit micro-RNA 503, and that this prevents damage to endothelial cells. Their mouse test subjects that displayed long periods of diabetes-like symptoms but had micro-RNA 503 silenced had a low risk of requiring amputation.
The researchers said that their findings help to build a more complete picture of a process that has been poorly understood by science. Doctors knew that cells of diabetic patients often become damaged. However, the reasons why they are often unable to recover from this damage were not precisely known.