A pancreatic hormone called amylin is linked to severe heart damage in people withdiabetes and obesity, according to a study conducted at the University of California at Davis.
Researchers found that diabetic and obese patients with heart failure had accumulated strings of proteins, fibers and plaques made of amylin in their hearts. Amylin is the hormone that produces the sensation of being full after eating.
Amylin buildup is at the heart of the problem
The UC Davis scientists also found through animal research that the collection of amylin in the heart leads to destruction and failure of the heart muscle.
“Amylin appears to be a stealth killer,” said Florin Despa, assistant professor of pharmacology at UC Davis and senior author of the study that appears in the February 17 issue of the journal Circulation Research.
The study compared normal and failing donated hearts of people undergoing heart-transplant surgery. The normal hearts of lean people had little or no amylin accumulation. Meanwhile, the failing hearts of obese and type 2 diabetes patients had extensive accumulation of amylin in protein strings called oligomers.
In addition, the non-failing hearts of overweight but not obese people also showed a smaller yet nonetheless abnormal buildup of amylin.
Controlling amylin would be a breakthrough
Controlling the amount of amylin in the blood could potentially prevent or reduce deaths from heart disease, according to the study.
“Drugs that block amylin from forming into toxic oligomers could significantly reduce the chances of heart failure,” said Despa.
The hormones amylin and insulin circulate together in the blood of healthy people. Amylin regulates gastric fluxes and the feeling of fullness, while the hormone insulin regulates carbohydrate and fat metabolism.
“There is only one amylin protein for every 100 insulin proteins in the blood, so it has been under the radar until recently,” said Despa.
Adults with diabetes have heart disease death rates about two to four times higher than adults without diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association. Two out of three people with diabetes die from heart disease or stroke.