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Otago researchers have found a microscopic difference in the hearts of people with the blood sugar condition that affects 10% of New Zealanders.
More than 50% of people with type-2 diabetes die from heart disease, and Associate Prof Rajesh Katare, of Otago’s department of physiology, said while stem cell therapy was effective in treating heart disease, generally, it did not work for diabetic hearts because tiny molecules called microRNA were different among diabetics.
One particular microRNA, called miR-30c, was crucial for stem cells’ survival, growth and new blood vessel formation, Associate Prof Katare said.
It was reduced in the diabetic stem cells, a finding confirmed when stem cells were collected from the heart tissue of patients undergoing heart surgery at Dunedin Hospital.
Researchers found they were able to increase the level of the lacking miR-30c in the heart by a simple injection, he said.
Apart from identifying the reasons for poor stem cells function in a patient with diabetes, the new therapy of using microRNA could change the treatment for heart disease in diabetic individuals, Associate Prof Katare said.
Researchers would complete more laboratory testing before human trials began, he said.