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12th February 2021

Preventing Cardiovascular Disease In Type 2 Diabetics

Emily Kovacev research type 2 diabetes impact

Did you know people with Type 2 diabetes are two to four times more likely to develop heart disease than those without?

Currently, there is no effective treatment to prevent this, but Honours student Emily Kovacev is determined to change that.

Emily was the successful recipient of The Hospital Research Foundation’s* Honours Research Scholarship 2020 and she hopes to repurpose a cancer therapy drug to prevent heart disease caused by Type 2 diabetes.

“Type 2 diabetes is associated with increased inflammatory stress and decreased antioxidants in the body,” Emily said.

“Inflammatory stress can cause DNA damage which triggers a DNA repair protein called PARP-1. However, in Type 2 diabetes, PARP-1 is over-activated which can lead to cell death also contributing to the increased inflammatory stress.

“This causes damage to tissues such as the heart and blood vessels. When a blood vessel is damaged, it cannot carry out its normal functions causing an increased risk of high blood pressure and blood clots.”

Previous research indicates that PARP-1 is over-activated in Type 1 diabetes and blocking its effects improves cell survival. Therefore, Emily tested the impact of blocking PARP-1 in endothelial cells (cells that line blood vessels) under Type 2 diabetic conditions.

“My aim was to see whether blocking PARP-1 over-activation would improve coronary artery endothelial cell survival under stress. The ‘stress’ I’m referring to is high sugar, low oxygen and inflammatory stress; trying to mirror diabetes in a cell model,” Emily said.

“The overall objective was to determine whether blocking PARP-1 over-activation protects the blood vessels. We did see promising results, but more research now needs to be conducted to validate the experiments.”

Thanks to the support of our donors, Emily said the Scholarship allowed her to focus on this important area of research throughout the year.

“An Honours year is very important as it gives you a taste of what to expect if you choose to undergo a PhD and want a career in research,” Emily said.

“It also provides you with many skills such as self-management, communication, problem solving and analysing data which can be translated to many different jobs within the health sector.

“Approximately 1.2 million Australians had diabetes between 2017-2018 and almost 1 million of these cases can be attributed to Type 2 diabetes. To be part of a project that focuses on finding a new way to treat such a prevalent problem in today’s society is very exciting.”

We look forward to sharing with you Emily’s progress!

*AHR is part of The Hospital Research Foundation Group