In a new study, researchers found that a greater understanding of how zinc is handled in our body could lead to improved treatments for people with diabetes.
They examined the causes of potentially dangerous blood clots and why these more commonly occur in people with diabetes.
The research was conducted by a team at the University of St Andrews.
Diabetes is a major risk factor for heart and circulatory diseases.
Around 300,000 adults have been diagnosed with diabetes in Scotland and it is estimated that thousands of more people have undiagnosed type 2 diabetes.
Because of the damage it causes to the blood vessels, people with diabetes are up to three times more likely to develop conditions like heart attacks, stroke, and vascular dementia.
The team has been looking at the role of zinc in these processes. Zinc is an essential nutrient that serves many functions in the body. One of its functions is to help the blood clot after injury.
However, in some people with underlying health conditions, such as those with type 2 diabetes or obesity, clotting can occur more often when it’s not required, causing damage to blood vessels and leading to serious health conditions such as stroke and thrombosis (DVT).
In the study, the team found that the transportation of zinc in the blood is compromised in those with type 2 diabetes due to the increased levels of fatty acids.
These fatty acids prevent zinc from being carried in the normal way allowing zinc to interact with clot-activating proteins and potentially triggering dangerous blood clots.
The findings suggest that by altering how zinc is handled, elevated levels of fatty acids in the circulation can contribute to the formation of unwanted and potentially dangerous blood clots.
Although further research is needed, the researchers believe their study identifies a new way that vascular problems can occur in certain individuals.
They hope that these findings will aid the development of new therapeutic strategies to reduce vascular disease risk in patients with type 2 diabetes, as well as other diseases associated with high levels of plasma fatty acids.
One author of the study is Dr. Alan Stewart of the School of Medicine.
The study is published in Chemical Science.
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