Drugs developed to treat Alzheimer’s disease could be repurposed to prevent damage caused to blood vessels in people with Type 2 diabetes after researchers discovered a key mechanism that can trigger changes in the blood vessels, which can eventually lead to cardiovascular disease.
Researchers at the University of Leeds and University of Dundee suggest that taking an experimental compound could possibly reverse damage caused to blood vessels of people who are obese or have Type 2 diabetes.
Metabolic syndrome – a range of conditions that can include Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and obesity – can lead to a stiffening of blood vessels and puts people at increased risk of a heart attack or stroke. The condition develops when people begin to overproduce an enzyme called BACE1 which, in turn, creates a protein called beta amyloid. In tests, researchers used an experimental compound called M-3 to stop the actions of BACE1 and found it could not only halt disease developing in the blood vessels – but reverse it.
Dr Paul Meakin, University Academic Fellow at the Leeds Institute of Cardiovascular and Metabolic Medicine, and study lead author, said: “The therapeutic effects of the experimental compound were marked, with the progression of disease in badly damaged blood vessels being reversed. Sometimes, in science, you look at the data you produce, and there is the hint of something there, but the effects that we observed were dramatic. And the most exciting thing is that there are drugs that can target the BACE1 enzyme. It opens up the possibility that scientists can develop a medicine that inhibits the actions of BACE1 – with the evidence suggesting that it may not only halt the progress of disease in the blood vessels but could reverse it.”
BACE1 is linked with the development of beta amyloid plaques found in the brains of people who died from Alzheimer’s disease. While pharmaceutical companies have begun to develop BACE1 inhibitors, they have, so far, been ineffective in tackling Alzheimer’s disease.
Results of the study, funded by the Diabetes and Wellness Research Foundation, was published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.