Dundee University has launched a world-first series of clinical trials to examine drugs known as SGLT2 inhibitors, which have already been shown to reduce heart failure among high risk diabetic patients.
Diabetes and heart disease often occur together, with potentially lethal consequences.
Coronary heart disease alone was the underlying cause of more than 6,800 deaths in Scotland in 2014, and 7.8 per cent of men and 4.7 per cent of women were living with the condition during the same year.
Anti-diabetic medicines called SGLT2 inhibitors act to reduce blood sugar levels and have been shown to offer some improvements to heart disease such as inducing weight loss and lowering blood pressure.
A team led by top cardiologist Professor Chim Lang will simultaneously conduct three trials to study the effects of these drugs on the cardiovascular system.
He said: “This class of anti-diabetes drugs shows considerable potential to be a treatment for heart disease, with strong indicators of beneficial effects for cardiovascular patients.
“We are uniquely well positioned at Dundee to examine novel approaches like this to simultaneously treating diabetes and heart disease.
“Our projects involve collaboration across the University between leading experts in cardiovascular disease, diabetes and magnetic imaging, and will place the University of Dundee as the leading authority in this field.”
The trials will look at the impact of these drugs on heart failure, on the health of the heart and kidneys, and whether the treatments can help protect the heart by thickening the heart muscles.
Professor Allan Struthers, chief investigator on the study examining heart muscles, said it would be surprising if SGLT2 inhibitors were not seen to be protective of the heart in patients at risk of heart disease.
Prof Struthers, head of cardiovascular and diabetes medicine at Dundee University, said: “In diabetes these new drugs reduce the load on the heart by lowering the filling pressure and the emptying pressure. Such effects are usually favourable on the heart and I would be surprised if we did not see this positive effect in the study.”