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Towards Newer Molecular Targets for Chronic Diabetic Complications

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Prior to the discovery of insulin, the major cause of death in the diabetic population was ketoacidosis. Although insulin and improved glycemic control have improved the longevity of diabetic patients, they still suffer from significant morbidity and mortality due to chronic secondary complications. Long standing diabetes leads to structural and functional alterations in both the micro- and macrovasculature. These complications, involving the retina, kidney, and peripheral nerves, as well as cardiovascular system, severely compromise the quality and expectancy of life. Large scale clinical trials have identified hyperglycemia as the key determinant for the development of such complications. Therapeutic modalities have been developed to target glucose-induced alterations, such as protein kinase C activation, augmented polyol pathway activity, non-enzymatic glycation and oxidative stress to ameliorate chronic complications. However, clinical trials targeting these biochemical alterations have failed to show significant beneficial effects. The plethora of biochemical anomalies that govern the development of chronic diabetic complications may therefore be subject to cross-interaction and complex interplays. Studies in both animal and human diabetes have, however, showed alteration of several vasoactive effector molecules such as endothelins. These molecules may be instrumental in mediating diabetes-induced structural and functional deficits at both the early and late stages of the disease. This review will discuss the current mechanistic understanding of chronic diabetic complications and will explore the potential novel therapeutic interventions.

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Keywords: Diabetes; advanced glycation end products; aldose reductase; endothelin; fibronectin; oxidative stress; protein kinase C

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Pathology, University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario N6A 5C1, Canada.

Publication date: January 1, 2006

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  • Vascular disease is the commonest cause of death in Westernized countries and its incidence is on the increase in developing countries. It follows that considerable research is directed at establishing effective treatment for acute vascular events. Long-term treatment has also received considerable attention (e.g. for symptomatic relief). Furthermore, effective prevention, whether primary or secondary, is backed by the findings of several landmark trials.

    Vascular disease is a complex field with primary care physicians and nurse practitioners as well as several specialties involved. The latter include cardiology, vascular and cardio thoracic surgery, general medicine, radiology, clinical pharmacology and neurology (stroke units). Current Vascular Pharmacology will publish reviews to update all those concerned with the treatment of vascular disease. For example, reviews commenting on recently published trials or new drugs will be included. In addition to clinically relevant topics we will consider 'research-based' reviews dealing with future developments and potential drug targets. Therefore, another function of Current Vascular Pharmacology is to bridge the gap between clinical practice and ongoing research.

    Debates will also be encouraged in the correspondence section of this journal.
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