Researchers, including one of an Indian-origin, have shed light on how a class of medications that help regulate blood sugar for patients with Type 2 diabetes can also protect from heart disease.
The findings published in the journal Cell Metabolism, focus on the effect of diabetes medication – empagliflozin – on cell repair in blood vessels and the resulting risks of heart disease.
Empagliflozin is a medication that falls under a category of drugs called SGLT2 inhibitors, which lower blood sugar.
“We have seen large-scale clinical trials giving us clear evidence that SGLT2 inhibitors can also protect our patients who have diabetes from heart disease,” said Indian-origin researcher and study author Subodh Verma from St. Michael’s Hospital in Canada.
The research suggests that circulating progenitor cells — which are found in the bone marrow and play a role in heart health — along with inflammatory cells are regulated with this diabetes medication.
For patients who have diabetes are at the risk of heart disease, such medications may provide heart protection by relieving damaged cells that would otherwise perpetuate heart disease by causing faulty vessel repair.
Using blood samples from the EMPA-HEART CardioLink-6 Trial, the research team was able to show that in diabetes, regenerative progenitor cells were reduced.
Patients who took empagliflozin, however, these progenitor cells were restored later.
“We found that in people with diabetes, not only were beneficial progenitor cells increased but we saw indications of reduced inflammation and oxidative stress, which can also contribute to cardiovascular disease,” said David Hess, Associate Professor at Western University.
According to the researchers, these novel findings may provide the basis for new therapies for patients who have heart disease complicated by diabetes.
Earlier research from Karolinska Institute in Sweden said that the new type of drugs for type 2 diabetes — SGLT2 inhibitors — are associated with a reduced risk of heart failure by 34 per cent.
The results are applicable primarily to dapagliflozin, which was the predominant SGLT2 inhibitor used in Scandinavia during the study period.