Colourful imaging of a fatty plaque which has accumulated in an artery

There are 3.6 million adults in the UK diagnosed with diabetes, and it's estimated that around 1 million people may be living with undiagnosed type 2 diabetes.

Having diabetes can double the risk of developing heart and circulatory disease. 

Diabetes causes high levels of glucose in your blood, and can affect the walls of arteries and make them more likely to develop fatty deposits.

Bone marrow damage in diabetes

Professor Madeddu and colleagues at the University of Bristol are studying the damage diabetes causes to bone marrow. Their previous work identified that blood vessel damage in diabetes also affects the bone marrow, deep inside bones.

The bone marrow is a vital part of the body as it produces the blood cells that carry oxygen to tissues or fight off infection. Bone marrow also produces stem cells, which travel through the bloodstream to reach sites of injury, where they can help to repair damaged tissues. Diabetes impairs the blood supply to the bone marrow, reducing its nutrient and oxygen supply and hampering the production of stem cells. 

The researchers have been awarded an additional £700,000 to study the circulatory system and bone marrow cells of people with diabetes to find new ways to protect cells in the bone marrow from the damage caused by diabetes. 

Preventing type 2 diabetes

We’re funding a project at the University of Leeds that could help us find a way to prevent type 2 diabetes.

BHF Research Fellow Dr Stephen Wheatcroft and BHF Professor Mark Kearney are looking at a protein called insulin-like growth factor binding protein 1 (IGFBP-1). When levels of this protein are too low, it is associated with the onset of type 2 diabetes. 

The scientists will study the effects of increasing the amounts of this protein in mice, to see if it prevents insulin resistance, which occurs early on in type 2 diabetes. If the research shows that type 2 diabetes is prevented by increasing levels of this protein, it could eventually lead to improved treatments for people with diabetes.

Preventing hardened arteries

In diabetes, arteries supplying the heart can get blocked by the build-up of fatty substances in the blood vessel wall. Cells in the artery wall can harden in a process known as calcification. Currently, little is known about the calcification process, and there is no known treatment or cure.

Professor Yvonne Alexander and colleagues at Manchester Metropolitan University are carrying out research to find out if we can prevent arteries from becoming hardened in people with diabetes.

The team will investigate molecules involved in diabetes to find out if they influence how cells behave and if they are responsible for calcification. 

They will find out if we can block the pathways that are involved in artery hardening, the first step towards developing a new drug.

Support our research

Over the past ten years, survival rates have improved overall for people who have had a heart attack – but we haven't seen the same trend for people with diabetes. Help us to fund researchers like BHF Professor Mark Kearney who are working hard to improve the outlook for people with diabetes.