June 24, 2010
Mechanism Explains Complications Associated With Diabetes
New research uncovers a molecular mechanism that links diabetes with an increased risk of cardiovascular problems and sudden cardiac death. The study, published by Cell Press in the June 24 issue of the journal Neuron, finds that high blood sugar prevents vital communication between the brain and the autonomic nervous system, which controls many involuntary activities in the body.
"Diseases, such as diabetes, that disturb the function of the autonomic nervous system cause a wide range of abnormalities that include poor control of blood pressure, cardiac arrhythmias, and digestive problems," explains senior study author Dr. Ellis Cooper from McGill University in Montreal. "In most people with diabetes, the malfunction of the autonomic nervous system adversely affects their quality of life and shortens life expectancy."
Using a mouse model of diabetes, the researchers discovered that high blood sugar elevates reactive oxygen species in autonomic neurons and causes a disruption in synaptic transmission between the brain and the autonomic neurons. The researchers went on to show that this elevation in reactive oxygen species inactivates the neurotransmitter receptors at these synapses causing synaptic transmission to fail.
"Our work provides a new explanation for diabetic-induced disruptions of the autonomic nervous system," concludes Dr. Cooper. "We show that an early step leading to autonomic abnormalities in diabetes is a depression in synaptic transmission triggered by events downstream of high blood sugar and reactive oxygen species. This synaptic depression is apparent as early as 1 week after the onset of diabetes and becomes more severe over time."
On the Net: