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Study finds high blood sugar levels could lead to heart attack complications

A team led by Dr Richard Rainbow from the Department of Cardiovascular Sciences has demonstrated for the first time the mechanism by which the level of sugar in your blood can affect the contraction of blood vessels, with potentially dangerous effects on the heart and blood pressure.

The researchers have shown that blood vessels contract more strongly at raised glucose levels than at ‘normal physiological’ levels.

Blood vessels contract and relax to control blood pressure. In general, the more contracted the blood vessels are, the higher the blood pressure. Using electrophysiology and myography techniques to examine the impact of glucose on arterial myocytes, cells that make up the tissue of our blood vessels, the team has identified a mechanism that controls the narrowing of blood vessels.

Dr Rainbow said: “We have shown that the amount of sugar, or glucose, in the blood changes the behaviour of blood vessels making them contract more than normal. This could result in higher blood pressure, or could reduce the amount of blood that flows through vital organs.

“This is the first study to show direct evidence of blood vessel contraction to glucose, and the potential mechanism behind this contractile response. In the experimental models we used in this study, including human blood vessels, increasing glucose to the levels that could be reached after a large meal altered vascular contraction."

  • The study ‘Distinct and complementary roles for α and β isoenzymes of protein kinase C in mediating vasoconstrictor responses to acutely elevated glucose’ is published in the British Journal of Pharmacology, is available here
  • Press release
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