Scientists find a new source of vascular damage in type 2 diabetes

In persons with type 2 diabetes, a molecular change in red blood cells may indicate vascular damage.
In persons with type 2 diabetes, a molecular change in red blood cells may indicate vascular damage.
  • MicroRNA-210, found in healthy red blood cells, aids in the regulation of vascular function.
  • According to a new study, persons with type 2 diabetes had reduced levels of microRNA-210 in their red blood cells.
  • MicroRNA-210 replenishment may one day prevent vascular damage associated with this kind of diabetes.

The development of cardiovascular disease and poorer clinical outcomes following cardiovascular events, particularly heart attacks, are among the numerous consequences of type 2 diabetes.

According to a new study published in the journal Diabetes, type 2 diabetes-related vascular problems may be caused by a shortage of a particular chemical in red blood cells.

In persons with this kind of diabetes, research has revealed that these specialized cells go through many alterations and can become dysfunctional.

Red blood cell mutations

The oxygen is carried from the lungs to the rest of the body via red blood cells. Carbon dioxide is also transported back to the lungs for expiration. Red blood cells have a lesser-known but equally important role in maintaining cardiovascular balance, or homeostasis. This is accomplished in part through the generation of nitric oxide.

Nitric oxide is produced by the body and is used to dilate blood vessels. Furthermore, red blood cells in persons with type 2 diabetes have a diminished ability to create nitric oxide, according to experts. Coronary arteries might get constricted as a result of this.

The release of adenosine triphosphate by red blood cells can also be affected by type 2 diabetes. This is the most important molecule in the body for storing and transmitting energy.

Another alteration is an increase in the production of reactive oxygen species in the red blood cells of diabetics. The presence of these molecules can contribute to the creation of additional plaque on the inner walls of arteries, a condition known as atherosclerosis.

Researchers from Sweden’s Karolinska Institutet studied potential chemical alterations within red blood cells may explain these dysfunctions in their latest study. The researchers gathered 36 people with type 2 diabetes and 32 healthy people who didn’t take any medications, had normal fasting glucose levels, and had no history of cardiovascular disease.

MicroRNA-210’s Importance

The researchers discovered that people with type 2 diabetes had much less microRNA-210 in their red blood cells than healthy people. MicroRNA molecules are found in nature and play a role in regulating cellular activities such as vascular functioning.

The drop in microRNA-210 induced alterations in the amounts of particular vascular proteins, according to the study. Endothelial dysfunction was exacerbated as a result of these changes. The thin membrane that lines the heart and blood arteries is known as the endothelium.

The researchers also discovered that atherosclerotic plaques from type 2 diabetes patients had lower amounts of microRNA-210 than healthy people.

Furthermore, glycemic control by medication did not appear to have a significant impact on the negative impacts of red blood cell alterations in type 2 diabetes individuals.

Future treatment options

Dr. Swapnil Khare, an associate professor of clinical medicine at Indiana University School of Medicine and the medical director of inpatient diabetes, spoke with Medical News Today about the research. She was not a part of the study.

“They showed in a part of the study that if they replace the microRNA, the endothelial dysfunction did improve,” Dr. Khare explained. “I would say this isn’t a surprising study, but definitely exciting.”

MicroRNAs and red blood cells have a direct interaction that has yet to be fully appreciated. The authors of the study agree that further research is needed to fully understand the signaling mechanisms that connect these biostructures.

Dr. Zhichao Zhou, a researcher at Karolinska Institutet and the study’s primary author, said in an interview with MNT:

“Given [that] microRNAs are very stable in circulation in general, and [that] we observed that red blood cell microRNA-210 levels are decreased in type 2 diabetes, microRNA-210 may become a potential diagnostic marker to predict possible vascular complications.”

Increased red blood cell microRNA-210 levels have the potential to be an effective therapy for endothelial dysfunction and help avoid vascular damage in persons with type 2 diabetes, the researchers write in the study’s conclusion.