London: Drugs currently undergoing development to treat anaemia -- lack of blood -- could be repurposed to help prevent people with Type-2 diabetes from developing heart failure, according to a new research.
Researchers found that after a heart attack, a protein called HIF acts to help heart cells survive.
In people with diabetes, fats accumulate within the heart muscle and stop the HIF protein from becoming active. This means that a person is more likely to suffer lasting heart muscle damage, and develop heart failure after a heart attack.
"After a heart attack, people with Type-2 diabetes are more likely to develop heart failure more quickly, but we have not fully understood the reasons why that is the case," said lead researcher Lisa Heather, research student at the University of Oxford in the UK.
"What we have shown with this research is that the metabolism of people with Type-2 diabetes means they have higher levels of fatty acids in the heart. This prevents signals going to the heart protective protein telling it to 'kick-in' after a heart attack," she added.
In the study, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, the team treated diabetic rats with a drug known to activate the HIF protein, and were able to encourage the heart to recover after a heart attack.
However, these initial results suggest that several drugs known to activate HIF and currently undergoing phase-III clinical trials to treat people with anaemia, could potentially be given to people with diabetes, immediately after a heart attack in the future, the researchers said.
"This research in rats has not only identified the mechanism that could explain why people with Type-2 diabetes have poorer outcomes after a heart attack, but also a practical way this might be prevented," the researchers explained.
However, further studies will be needed to confirm if the same benefits are seen in humans, they noted.