New clue to diabetic heart disease discovered

New clue to diabetic heart disease discovered
17 Sep 2010, PR 198/10

Scientists from King's College London have identified a molecule that could help predict type 2 diabetes and identify diabetics that are most vulnerable to heart and circulatory disease.

The study, led by Dr Manuel Mayr, Senior Lecturer in the Cardiovascular Division and British Heart Foundation (BHF) Senior Research Fellow, is the first to analyse the ‘fingerprint' of microRNAs, small molecules that affect the activity of suites of genes, in people with type 2 diabetes. The researchers found that the level of one particular microRNA, MiR-126, was significantly reduced in the blood of people with type 2 diabetes compared to those without, and in some people this drop in MiR-126 preceded the onset of disease.

The findings suggest that the levels of MiR-126 could be an early indication, or even a predictor, of diabetes. We already know that MiR-126 plays a role in blood vessels, so it could also explain why people with diabetes are at high risk of heart and circulation problems and help to identify who is most at risk.

Heart disease is the biggest single cause of death in the UK, causing around 91,000 deaths each year. People with diabetes are at a two- to five-fold increased risk of heart disease and it is estimated that 15 per cent of heart attacks in Western Europe are due to diagnosed diabetes. Over 5 per cent of men and 4 per cent of women in England have diagnosed diabetes. It is estimated that 3.1 per cent of men and 1.5 per cent of women aged 35 and over have undiagnosed diabetes.

Dr Mayr said: ‘It's very important for doctors to define those diabetic patients that are the highest risk of developing cardiovascular complications. We hope that this new class of blood markers may give additional insight that we're currently not getting from the other clinical tests.'

Professor Jeremy Pearson, Associate Medical Director at the BHF, said: ‘This is important because right now there is no quick and simple way to monitor blood vessel health. Problems go unnoticed until symptoms appear, and the first symptom could be as serious as a heart attack.'

Notes to editors

Dr Manuel Mayr
Dr Manuel Mayr is a member of the James Black Cardiovascular Research Centre, based at the BHF Centre of Research Excellence at King's College London. To find out more about the BHF Centres of Excellence initiative, visit:

King's College London
King's College London is one of the top 25 universities in the world (2010 QS international world rankings), The Sunday Times 'University of the Year 2010/11' and the fourth oldest in England. A research-led university based in the heart of London, King's has nearly 23,000 students (of whom more than 8,600 are graduate students) from nearly 140 countries, and some 5,500 employees. King's is in the second phase of a £1 billion redevelopment programme which is transforming its estate.

King's has an outstanding reputation for providing world-class teaching and cutting-edge research. In the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise for British universities, 23 departments were ranked in the top quartile of British universities; over half of our academic staff work in departments that are in the top 10 per cent in the UK in their field and can thus be classed as world leading. The College is in the top seven UK universities for research earnings and has an overall annual income of nearly £450 million.

King's has a particularly distinguished reputation in the humanities, law, the sciences (including a wide range of health areas such as psychiatry, medicine, nursing and dentistry) and social sciences including international affairs. It has played a major role in many of the advances that have shaped modern life, such as the discovery of the structure of DNA and research that led to the development of radio, television, mobile phones and radar. It is the largest centre for the education of healthcare professionals in Europe; no university has more Medical Research Council Centres.

King's College London and Guy's and St Thomas', King's College Hospital and South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trusts are part of King's Health Partners. King's Health Partners Academic Health Sciences Centre (AHSC) is a pioneering global collaboration between one of the world's leading research-led universities and three of London's most successful NHS Foundation Trusts, including leading teaching hospitals and comprehensive mental health services. For more information, visit:

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