Diabetes drug may also treat aging blood vessels

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hands of elderly person hold pill bottle and pill

An FDA-approved drug that lowers blood sugar in adults with type 2 diabetes may also decrease blood vessel dysfunction associated with aging, according to a new study.

Researchers initially examined the role aging plays in human blood vessel function and stiffness. Then they evaluated how treatment with the sodium glucose co-transporter 2 (SGLT2) inhibitor empagliflozin (Empa) improves blood vessel function and reduces arterial stiffness in aged male mice.

“Cardiovascular disease is the main cause of death in older adults in the US,” says Camila Manrique-Acevedo, associate professor of medicine at the University of Missouri.

“Weight loss, physical activity, antihypertensive therapy, and lipid-lowering drugs have shown variable effectiveness at improving blood vessel function and reducing arterial stiffness. But additional approaches are needed to improve vascular health in older adults.”

For the study in the journal GeroScience, researchers first compared blood vessel function and stiffness in 18 healthy human patients—average age of 25—with 18 patients who averaged 61 years old. The older patients had impaired endothelial function and increased aortic stiffness when compared to the younger patients.

“Our findings in young and older adults confirm previous clinical data demonstrating the impact of aging on blood vessel function and arterial stiffness,” Manrique-Acevedo says. “Importantly, we were able to replicate this data in a rodent model.”

In order to investigate the effects of Empa on vascular aging, the researchers divided 72-week-old male mice into two groups. Twenty-nine were fed for six weeks with a diet enriched with Empa, while the other half were given standard food. After analyzing both groups six weeks later, researchers discovered the mice treated with Empa experienced improved blood vessel function, reduced arterial stiffness, and other vascular benefits.

“To our knowledge, this is the first study to examine the potential role of SGLT2 inhibition in reversing vascular aging,” Manrique-Acevedo says. “And our findings highlight the need for further clinical investigations to determine the potential role of SGLT2 inhibition as a therapeutic tool to delay or reverse vascular aging in humans.”

The National Institutes of Health and a VA Merit Grant funded the work. The content does not necessarily represent the official views of the funding agency. The authors declare no potential conflicts of interest.

Source: University of Missouri

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