Cell Metabolis study showed that PPAR gamma, a target of diabetes drugs, protects mice against high blood pressure and vascular dysfunction.

Carver College of Medicine researchers found that peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma (PPAR gamma), a molecule that stands at the crossroads of metabolic and cardiovascular diseases and is the target of TZDs, plays an unanticipated protective role in the blood vessel wall.

Working with mice to test PPAR gamma’s blood-vessel role, the team knocked out the function of the protein in vascular smooth muscle. The mice developed high blood pressure and very severe vascular dysfunction, which resembled the vascular disorders often seen in patients with advanced type 2 diabetes.

The researchers believe that this protective role may explain why diabetics taking thiazolidinediones (TZDs), which target and activate PPAR gamma, tended toward lower blood pressure and signs of other cardiovascular improvements.

This view was recently challenged, however, by a study suggesting that TZD rosiglitazone (Avandia) increases cardiovascular events including heart attack and death, the researchers admit. They suggest that like most things, balance in this protein is probably key.

The study will be published in the March 5 issue of Cell Metabolism.

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