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Wednesday 30 September 2020 11:15am

Rajesh Katare and Daryl Schwenke image
Associate Professor Rajesh Katare and Associate Professor Daryl Schwenke.

An international study led by the University of Otago has revealed how exercise can reduce the chance of diabetes leading on to heart disease.

The research has identified that exercise triggers the release of small sequences of genetic code in the heart called microRNA, which increase protein production to improve heart structure and function.

The study 'Exercise regulates microRNAs to preserve coronary and cardiac function in the diabetic heart' has recently been published in the prestigious journal Circulation Research, one of the world's leading publications in the field of cardiovascular medicine.

Associate Professors Daryl Schwenke and Rajesh Katare, of Otago's Department of Physiology, found that specific microRNA are adversely altered in the early stages of diabetes. These altered microRNA can reliably predict the inevitable onset of heart disease. Associate Professor Katare believes this is a pivotal new development as microRNA can serve as a reliable early biomarker for heart disease in diabetes.

“We've proven that by using exercise as a treatment, we can increase good microRNA, and reduce bad microRNA from causing damage. Exercise effectively improves regulation of microRNA to prevent the onset and progression of heart disease,” Associate Professor Schwenke says.

Along with highlighting the role of exercise in regulating microRNA, the study also shows that microRNA are a potential novel target for the therapeutic treatment of heart disease in people with chronic diabetes.

“By increasing the good microRNA using pharmacological drugs it is possible to effectively reduce heart disease in diabetic subjects. This approach is not solely reliant on exercise,” Associate Professor Schwenke says.

Over 250,000 thousand New Zealanders have diabetes according to the Ministry of Health, which defines diabetes as a serious health challenge to our country.*

Associate Professor Schwenke believes this research has clear long-term benefits on both the quality of life for diabetic patients with heart disease, as well as alleviating the economic burden associated with current treatment of diabetes.

“By understanding the physiological role of microRNA we can see without doubt the positive role of exercise in preventing diabetic heart disease,” he adds.

The study is a collaboration between the University of Otago, Japan's National Cardiovascular Research Institute, and the Synchrotron Radiation Research Institute, also of Japan.

* See: 'Living Well with Diabetes: 2015-2020' on the Ministry of Health website


'Exercise regulates microRNAs to preserve coronary and cardiac function in the diabetic heart'
Circulation Research

For more information contact:

Daryl Schwenke
School of Biomedical Sciences
University of Otago
Tel +64 3 479 7330

Rajesh Katare
School of Biomedical Sciences
University of Otago
Tel +64 3 479 7292

Mark Hathaway
Senior Communications Adviser
University of Otago
Mob +64 21 279 5016

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