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Abnormal metabolism in type 2 diabetes, and how this affects the heart

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The study of metabolism has a strong historical basis in Oxford, and in the last 20 years research in this field has undergone a renaissance. Abnormalities in cardiac metabolism have been identified in many pathologies, and have been shown to directly impair the function of the heart, accelerate disease progression and to predict mortality. Given the pivotal role of metabolism in keeping the heart contracting, a greater understanding of what metabolism can do, how this is modified in disease and whether this information can be used to develop new treatments may lead to new therapies for the heart.

Type 2 diabetes is a systemic disease of abnormal metabolism, yet the primary cause of mortality in type 2 diabetes is cardiovascular disease.  Important questions remain as to what abnormal cardiac metabolism is doing to the heart in diabetes, and how it is having its effect.  We are studying metabolism from 2 angles in diabetes: as a source of energy to power the heart, but also as signalling molecules that can regulate transcription, post-translational modification, and enzyme activity.  Our aim is to understand how abnormal metabolism and metabolite levels are exerting their effect on the heart in diabetes.  We are particularly interested in the roles played by fats and lipids within the heart, and how these may be driving the metabolic and contractile dysfunction in diabetes.  Given the increasing prevalence of diabetes and metabolic syndrome in society, a greater understanding of how diabetes specifically affects the heart, and whether this can be rectified by therapy are important questions.

Our research can be divided into four key questions:

1. How is cardiac metabolism modified in type 2 diabetes?

2. What is this abnormal metabolism doing to the heart – are metabolites acting as signalling molecules?

3. What are the mechanisms regulating changes in cardiac metabolism?

4. Can these mechanisms be targeted by new pharmacological therapies to treat the heart?

Our team

John Fell Fund.pngCancer Research UK.pngNovoNordisk.pngBHF logo horizontalDiabetes UK

Selected publications

Our Achievements

Drug could help diabetic hearts recover after a heart attack

New research led by Associate Professor Lisa Heather has found that a drug known as molidustat, currently in clinical trials for another condition, could reduce risk of heart failure after heart attacks.

DPAG Researchers honoured for their work in cardiac metabolism

Kaitlyn Dennis, Ujang Purnama and Kerstin Timm have won prizes across each of the three award categories at this year’s Society for Heart and Vascular Metabolism conference, demonstrating DPAG's continued excellence in cardiac metabolism research.

Reducing fat in the diabetic heart could improve recovery from heart attack

New research from the Heather Group has shown that in type 2 diabetes an overload of lipids reduces the heart’s ability to generate energy during a heart attack, decreasing chances of recovery.

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