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"Beat Cop" -- The Discovery Files

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UC Davis Health System researchers have identified for the first time a biological pathway that is activated when blood sugar levels are abnormally high and causes irregular heartbeats.

Credit: NSF/Karson Productions

Audio Transcript:

Diabetics--take heart

I'm Bob Karson with the discovery files--new advances in science and engineering from the National Science Foundation.

A discovery from UC Davis and Johns Hopkins (Sound effect: heartbeat) could pave the way for new treatments to protect the hearts of diabetics who are four times more likely to get heart disease than the rest of the population.

Researchers conducted a series of experiments showing that when glucose levels are moderate to high--common with diabetes--a certain sugar molecule in the heart cells fuses to a specific place on a protein called CaMKII. The fusion led to over activation of the protein, and caused pathological changes in the finely-tuned calcium signaling system it controls. The result: A triggering of full-blown arrhythmias--irregular heartbeats that are linked with heart failure and sudden cardiac death.

CaMKII also helps regulate electrical activity and pumping action in the heart, and the discovery identifies a biological link between diabetes and heart disease.

The new molecular understanding of how high glucose affects the functioning of a critical regulatory protein, might help lead to treatments for diabetic neuropathy or kidney and retinal disorders associated with diabetes as well as the 'affairs of the heart'.

(Sound effect: film noir music) This reads like a detective story of a 'beat cop' gone bad and the sweet little thing that led him astray.

"The discovery files" covers projects funded by the government's National Science Foundation. Federally sponsored research--brought to you, by you! Learn more at or on our podcast.

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