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May 16, 2017

Melbourne researchers are uncovering new ways to reduce a diabetic’s risk of stroke and heart attack.

The breakthrough has identified a potential treatment, which could help the 1.7 million Australians living with the chronic illness.

Written by Reece D’Alessandro

Produced for online by Molly Houseman

New research from the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute has identified a protein which causes an over-production of platelets in the blood.

Normally, platelets are good, they stop a person from bleeding, but according to lead researcher, Associate Professor Andrew Murphy, too many can put a diabetic at risk.

“What we’re doing is looking at the complications that diabetes causes, which is largely heart attacks and strokes,” he says.

“So if we can inhibit this protein with this molecule, then we can effectively limit the risk of these people going on to have a heart attack or a stroke.”

This is a crucial development, given the age at which diabetics become more vulnerable.

“Sadly it happens a lot earlier in life, compared to those that don’t have diabetes, so I think that is what is really important to target, what actually kills people with diabetes,” he says.

The research does not focus on blood sugar control, but rather on improving cardiovascular health.

“Lowering blood glucose is ultimately very important, but what this does is, if you have these little peaks it sort of acts as a safety net and prevents these damaging effects on your blood vessels,” he says.

According to diabetes support group leader Lisa-Jane Collie any new research into the illness has a positive impact.

“If you ignore it, it’s no good and it’s very important to keep up to date,” Mrs Collie says.

It is not just diabetics who will benefit.

Associate Professor Andrew Murphy says the treatment could potentially be used on anyone with an elevated risk.

“That’s certainly one of the things we’re looking at,” he says.

“Is this drug also going to be helpful to those who don’t have diabetes and suffer from all these risk factors that are associated with heart attacks, such as blood pressure, high cholesterol and things like that.”

The next step will be turning research into a viable treatment.

“That would be then an injectable therapy that you could give someone once a month or once every two months, but we’re still a little way off from achieving that goal just yet,” Associate Professor Murphy says.