People who suffer from a combination of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and obesity have a condition known as “metabolic syndrome”. This condition causes the blood vessels to stiffen. When the arteries are stiff or become blocked, there’s a reduced flow of oxygenated blood that’s able to reach the body’s tissues and vital organs. This puts a person at increased risk of heart attack or stroke. But in order to prevent further harm to patients with metabolic syndrome, it’s key to understand what causes damage to the blood vessels – and how this can be treated.
Our latest research has identified a previously unknown mechanism by which metabolic syndrome is able to cause blood vessel damage. But, we also found a way to reverse this damage. Our study looked at both mice and human tissue samples. In both groups, we found that if a subject was obese and had type 2 diabetes, their blood vessels overproduced an enzyme called BACE1. This triggers a biochemical reaction that creates a protein called beta amyloid. Levels of BACE1 are increased by excessive blood lipids (fats) and glucose (sugar), which are characteristic of the metabolic syndrome.