A link between diabetes and circulatory problems that cause thousands of Britons to need a limb amputation each year has been uncovered, scientists say.
Leg ulcers and gangrene in diabetics have been linked to a protein only found in the cells of those who suffer from the syndrome, the British Heart Foundation (BHF) said.
About 5,000 diabetics a year in the UK – or 100 a week – have a limb amputated.
Experts carried out experiments on mice and found that a protein called p75NTR was present in the cells of diabetics but not in the cells of healthy mice.
When they stopped the protein working in diabetic cells, they found that circulation to the lower limbs improved.
But when the protein was introduced into cells, circulation worsened, suggesting the important role played by the protein.
Jeremy Pearson, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation (BHF), which funded the study, said: “The researchers have found that there is an increased expression of this protein in the cells of diabetics.
Professor Peter Weissberg, medical director at the BHF, added: “This BHF-funded group in Bristol have made an important discovery in identifying a molecule that leaves diabetics at risk of awful conditions such as leg ulcers and gangrene that can require amputation.
“This vital finding may pave the way for the development of a drug to knock out the molecule – or its effects.”
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