Narrowed and hardened arteries – atherosclerosis — are a common risk associated with Type 1 diabetes. Fat, cholesterol and other substances build up to create plaque, which narrows the arteries and makes blood flow more difficult. The increased risk of blood clots often leads to heart attacks and strokes.
Now a University of Chicago study shows that transplanting pancreatic islets into Type 1 diabetics significantly reduces carotid artery thickness, lowering both HbA1c levels and the attendant risk of atherosclerosis. The transplanted islets include insulin-producing beta cells, which in Type 1s have been destroyed by an autoimmune attack. By giving transplant recipients some insulin-producing ability, the islets allow them to lower their HbA1c levels, which researchers say leads to reduced carotid artery thickness.
Researchers think that the re-introduction of insulin-making capability in the type 1 patients reduced inflammation by lowering blood glucose levels, leading to less stress on their arteries.