Wednesday, 17 April 2019 10:35

Diabetes drug cuts heart disease risk in non-diabetics

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Diabetes drug cuts heart disease risk in non-diabetics Image by burlesonmatthew from Pixabay

A common drug used to treat type 2 diabetes may reverse the thickening of heart muscle that leads to cardiovascular disease, scientists at the University of Dundee have found.

Led by Professor Chim Lang, head of the Division of Molecular and Clinical Medicine, the scientists found that metformin could be repurposed as a treatment for heart diseases in people who did not have type 2 diabetes.

The group's study, titled the MET-REMODEL Trial, was published in the European Heart Journal, and showed that metformin reduced the thickening of the muscle wall in the heart's left pumping chamber, a change known as left ventricular hypertrophy.

LVH is known to be a serious risk factor for heart attack, stroke and heart failure. It does not advertise its presence and people only know they have it when they suffer a heart attack or a stroke.

"Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of global mortality. We have previously shown that metformin can have beneficial effects in patients with cardiovascular diseases. But this is the first time anyone has looked specifically at the effects of metformin on LVH in non-diabetic patients with coronary artery disease in a clinical trial," Professor Lang said.

"The study involved treating pre-diabetic people with coronary artery disease with metformin or a placebo over a period of 12 months to see how the drug affected the heart muscle wall, using state-of-the-art MRI technology.

"The major causes of LVH are high blood pressure, obesity and insulin resistance, which are also thought to be key contributors of coronary artery disease. The dangerous thickening of the left ventricle was reduced by twice as much in those taking metformin compared to the placebo.

"We also found that metformin reduced blood pressure, oxidative stress and lost body weight — an average of 3.6kg, compared to no changes in the placebo group. If the findings from this study are substantiated in a larger-scale study, metformin could offer hope for millions of patients across the globe."

Lead author and principal investigator of the trial, Mohapradeep Mohan, said LVH was normally treated with blood pressure medication but this was not particularly effective as it could also be present in patients whose blood pressure was under control.

"In this context, we need non-blood pressure medication and we had good reason to suppose that metformin should help to reduce thickening of heart muscle wall," he said. The trial was funded by the British Heart Foundation.

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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