In type 2 diabetes, the modified function of the red blood cells causes vascular damage. The findings of a new study on cells collected from patients with type 2 diabetes and mice reveal that this effect due to low levels of a vital molecule in the red blood cells.
Illustration of red blood cells. Image Credit: Pixabay.
The study by scientists from Karolinska Institutet in Sweden has been reported in the journal Diabetes.
It is familiar that type 2 diabetes patients are vulnerable to a higher risk of cardiovascular disease. As time passes, type 2 diabetes may cause damage to blood vessels, which could cause life-threatening complications like stroke and heart attack.
But the disease mechanisms behind cardiovascular injury in type 2 diabetes are mostly unknown, and at present, there is a lack of treatments to avoid such injuries.
Latest studies have demonstrated that the red blood cells, whose main job is to carry oxygen to bodily organs, turn dysfunctional in type 2 diabetes and can serve as mediators of vascular complications.
In this study, Karolinska researchers have analyzed cells collected from patients with type 2 diabetes and mice to identify which molecular changes in the red blood cells could lead to such harmful effects in type 2 diabetes.
Reduced levels of microRNA-210
The team identified that levels of the small molecule microRNA-210 were considerably reduced in red blood cells from 36 patients with type 2 diabetes than red blood cells of 32 healthy subjects.
Micro-RNAs are a class of molecules that act as regulators of vascular function in diabetes and other conditions. The decrease in microRNA-210 led to changes in certain vascular protein levels and thus impaired blood vessel endothelial cell function.
Lab experiments showed that restoration of microRNA-210 levels in red blood cells inhibited the development of vascular injury through particular molecular changes.
The findings demonstrate a previously unrecognized cause of vascular injury in type 2 diabetes. We hope that the results will pave the way for new therapies that increase red blood cell microRNA-210 levels and thereby prevent vascular injury in patients with type 2 diabetes.”
Zhichao Zhou, Researcher, Department of Medicine, Karolinska Institutet
Zhou performed the study together with, among others, Professor John Pernow from the same department.
Zhou, Z., et al. (2021) Downregulation of Erythrocyte miR-210 Induces Endothelial Dysfunction in Type 2 Diabetes. Diabetes. doi.org/10.2337/db21-0093.