Having diabetes markedly raises the risk of developing a host of other ailments. Many arise after blood vessels suffer damage, spurring the accumulation of fatty deposits in the arteries or the wild, blinding growth of capillaries in the eye.
"We're interested in what happens in the body at the molecular level to cause these life-threatening problems," said Mark S. Segal, Ph.D., an assistant professor of nephrology, hypertension and transplantation at University of Florida’s College of Medicine. "Our work is focused on understanding why diabetic patients are at increased risk for these other diseases."
The problem is rooted in the body's response to vascular injury. The bone marrow churns out cells crucial to repairing the damaged lining of blood vessels. But sometimes they fail to report for duty. "Part of the defect we think is occurring in diabetic patients is these cells do not carry out appropriate repair, and therefore these patients are at higher risk for cardiovascular disease and other complications," Segal said.
The researchers isolated these repair cells from blood samples drawn from patients with diabetes and chronic kidney disease and studied them in the laboratory. When nitric oxide gas was added the cells lost their rigidity.
In the body, nitric oxide occurs naturally. It helps the repair cells move out of the bone marrow where they are made, and it opens blood vessels and improves the uptake of oxygen. Patients with diabetes, however, commonly have low levels of nitric oxide.
In the future patients with diabetes and atherosclerosis might receive injections of their own repair cells, which would be removed, incubated with nitric oxide and then returned. They would theoretically help blood vessels heal more quickly, Segal speculated.
MEDICA.de; Source: University of Florida