DEC 05, 2017 06:31 AM PST

Genetic Variant Explains Paradoxical Link Between Diabetes and Heart Disease

WRITTEN BY: Kara Marker

Perplexing findings from 2008 connecting better control of blood glucose levels with a higher risk of fatal heart attacks for people with diabetes are now finally being explained by scientists at the Joslin Diabetes Center: a genetic variant is to blame.

 

Being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes doubles a person’s risk of developing heart disease compared to people without type 2 diabetes. Following up on the 2016 discovery of two genetic variants associated with a major increase of risk for heart disease among people with type 2 diabetes, researchers now understand why, while careful control of blood glucose levels is usually successful at reducing risk of heart disease, the 2008 study showed such stark differences.

Human beta cells and insulin granules. Credit: Wikimedia user Wikimaji

The new study from the Joslin Diabetes Center, published in the journal Diabetes Care, identified a hormone called glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) and its role in diabetes-related heart disease risk when people contain a certain genetic variant, one of the two discovered in 2016. In studies, levels of GLP-1 in people with this particular genetic variant dropped significantly in response to “intensive glycemic control.” Yet, GLP-1 levels stable among people without the variant.

What is GLP-1?

According to the American Heart Association, the “incretin effect” is defined as the difference in insulin secretion between consumption of glucose through a meal and injection of glucose intravenously. People with type 2 diabetes have a reduced or sometimes absent incretin effect, which is responsible for over half of total insulin secretion. GLP-1 is considered an “incretin hormone” because it renews the ability to secrete insulin.

"GLP-1 is produced by intestinal cells, and its main action is to stimulate insulin secretion from beta cells,” explained senior investigator Alessandro Doria, MD, PhD, MPH. “But the hormone also has a beneficial effect on the heart and blood vessels that is independent from its action on insulin secretion.”

Researchers studied 65 biomarkers in 351 participants, comparing intense glucose control and standard glucose control. They were looking for any association between certain biomarkers and the two genetic variants discovered in association with heart disease. In this study, they were able to confirm the link between higher risk of fatal heart attack and lower GLP-1 levels.

Going forward, developing a diagnostic test for people with type 2 diabetes who might have the genetic risk marker associated with GLP-1 would help medical professionals identify which patients would need specific, GLP-1-related drugs.

Next, researchers from this study are going to learn more details: how specifically does the genetic variant influence the production of GLP-1?

Sources: Diabetes Care, Joslin Diabetes Center

About the Author
  • I am a scientific journalist and enthusiast, especially in the realm of biomedicine. I am passionate about conveying the truth in scientific phenomena and subsequently improving health and public awareness. Sometimes scientific research needs a translator to effectively communicate the scientific jargon present in significant findings. I plan to be that translating communicator, and I hope to decrease the spread of misrepresented scientific phenomena! Check out my science blog: ScienceKara.com.
You May Also Like
MAY 01, 2018
Health & Medicine
MAY 01, 2018
Older Adults Stick to Fitness Classes Grouped by Age
Starting and sticking with an exercise routine is difficult. If you're getting in shape after not being active, going back to the gym can be discouragi...
JUN 05, 2018
Cardiology
JUN 05, 2018
Your Heart and Your Sleeping Habits
Getting enough sleep is good for you. Old news, right? A new study from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine expands on this generic health advice, findi...
JUN 18, 2018
Cardiology
JUN 18, 2018
When do you really need to be screened for aortic aneurysms?
The decrease in death from abdominal aortic aneurysms in recent decades may not be due to increased screening. In fact, University of Gothenburg scientists...
JUL 09, 2018
Cardiology
JUL 09, 2018
Engineering a Better Heart Valve
Utilizing computational modeling to create a more successful tissue-engineered heart valve....
JUL 19, 2018
Cardiology
JUL 19, 2018
HIV Infection Doubles Risk of Heart Disease
Recent study of 150 countries and over 800,000 people shows HIV patients are more than twice as likely to develop Heart Disease than uninfected individuals....
JUL 12, 2018
Infographics
JUL 12, 2018
3D Imaging Advantage
Learn about the advantages and the technology behind 3D cellular image acquisition and analysis with this infographic from Molecular Devices....
Loading Comments...