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Diabetes complications are well known, but how exactly does high blood sugar affect one’s eyes or kidneys? Professor Median explains that vascular complications of diabetes start with blood vessel damage. Therefore, his research has zeroed in on a way to heal the damage that blood vessels face from high glucose.

Listen and learn

  • Which pathways such as glycolysis lead to vascular changes in diabetes,
  • How he’s working on a cell therapy to treat vascular diabetes complications by injecting treated stem cells into this ischemic (damaged) tissue, and
  • What complications arise from this therapy and how his team addresses these challenges in their research.

Reinhold Medina is a professor in the School of Medicine at Queen’s University in Belfast. He specializes in diabetes and vascular disease with an emphasis on diabetic vasculopathy. His research is centered on blood vessel damage because, “that’s what impacts the quality of life.”

He adds that the complications in heart health, increased risk of stroke, and damage to the eyes and kidneys all result from what happens to blood vessels when they handle high glucose levels, inflammation, and oxidative stress. The endothelial cells, which line the inner layer of blood vessels, are damaged and die. Blood perfusion then decreases in those damaged areas, and tissue physiology is hampered. 

That’s where his research comes in: utilizing stem cells for diabetes. He says that there a couple of ways scientists think endothelium can repair, and one such way is with progenitor or stem cells. They’re trying to develop a cell therapy by isolating stem cells or progenitors in the lab from tissues like umbilical cords. They are showing that by injecting these cells into damaged tissues of mouse models, they can form new blood vessels where needed as well as repair damaged vessels.

This will translate as a therapy for lots of other diseases—any, in fact, that cause this kind of tissue damage. There are challenges to this process, but they are working on each. For example, he explains the importance of injecting the cells in the penumbra area and addresses how the cells must engraft and join the vascular network through immunosuppression measures.

For more about his work, he suggests following him on Twitter at ReinholdMedinaLab@Belfast.

Available on Apple Podcasts: apple.co/2Os0myK

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