A Hearty Dose of Insulin Therapy

Insulin shown to repair damage caused by cardiovascular problems in diabetes patients

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) People with diabetes are often treated with insulin. Now, it seems that insulin also can repair some of the damage done by heart disease, a condition that diabetes patients are especially prone to.

Insulin therapy may help mend the wounds caused by atherosclerosis (narrowed or hardened arteries) and heart attack in people with diabetes.

This finding improves the understanding of the underlying mechanisms that cause heart disease in diabetes patients.

"Take care of your heart if you have diabetes."

People with type 1 and type 2 diabetes have problems with insulin, a natural hormone that manages blood sugar. Their body either does not produce enough insulin or does not respond to the hormone.

These insulin problems have also been linked to the development of atherosclerosis and high blood pressure, two conditions that are often seen in diabetes patients.

Despite all these links, there has been little research on how insulin therapy may treat these heart-related problems. For this reason, Aleksander Hinek, M.D., Ph.D., D.Sc., from the Hospital for Sick Children and the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology at the University of Toronto, and colleagues set out to see if small doses (0.5-10 nM) of insulin could repair damage caused by atherosclerosis.

For their study, the researchers ran a series of experiments on samples of human aortic smooth muscle cells (cells from the largest artery in the body).

They found that low doses of insulin do stimulate the buildup of elastic fibers in human aortic smooth muscle cells, as well as other types of cells.

Their data show, for the first time, how insulin encourages the formation of elastic fibers by triggering a series of signals on the molecular and cellular level in the body.

These findings, according to Dr. Hinek, not only give researchers a better understanding of how high blood pressure and atherosclerosis develop in diabetes patients, but they also show how small doses of insulin can heal wounds caused by atherosclerosis and heart attack.

The study is published in the American Journal of Pathology.

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Review Date: 
January 17, 2012
Last Updated:
January 20, 2012