FDA-Approved Drug Reduces Blood Vessel Problems Caused by Aging

Red Blood Cells Flow in Blood Vessel

An FDA-approved blood sugar-lowering medicine may help prevent vascular constriction and stiffness in aged male mice.

The study shows that the medication stopped the constriction and stiffening of the blood vessels

According to new research published in GeroScience by the University of Missouri School of Medicine, an FDA-approved medicine used to control blood sugar in people with Type 2 diabetes may help reduce blood vessel dysfunction associated with aging.

Camilla Manrique, MD, Endocrinology

Camila Manrique-Acevedo, MD, associate professor of medicine at the University of Missouri.

Researchers first investigated the effect of aging on human blood artery function and stiffness. The researchers then looked at how the sodium-glucose co-transporter 2 (SGLT2) inhibitor empagliflozin (Empa) affected blood vessel function and arterial stiffness in elderly male mice.

“Cardiovascular disease is the main cause of death in older adults in the U.S.,” said Camila Manrique-Acevedo, MD, associate professor of medicine. “Weight loss, physical activity, antihypertensive therapy, and lipid-lowering drugs have shown variable effectiveness at improving blood vessel function and reducing arterial stiffness. But additional approaches are needed to improve vascular health in older adults.”

The scientists first compared blood vessel function and stiffness in 18 healthy human patients with an average age of 25 to 18 patients with an average age of 61. When compared to the younger patients, the older patients exhibited reduced endothelial function and increased aortic stiffness.

“Our findings in young and older adults confirm previous clinical data demonstrating the impact of aging on blood vessel function and arterial stiffness,” Manrique-Acevedo said. “Importantly, we were able to replicate this data in a rodent model.”

In order to investigate the effects of Empa on vascular aging, 72-week-old male mice were divided into two groups. Twenty-nine were fed for six weeks with a diet enriched with Empa, while the other half were given standard food. After analyzing both groups six weeks later, researchers discovered the mice treated with Empa experienced improved blood vessel function, reduced arterial stiffness, and other vascular benefits.

“To our knowledge, this is the first study to examine the potential role of SGLT2 inhibition in reversing vascular aging,” Manrique-Acevedo said. “And our findings highlight the need for further clinical investigations to determine the potential role of SGLT2 inhibition as a therapeutic tool to delay or reverse vascular aging in humans.”

Part of the support for this study was provided by the National Institutes of Health and a VA Merit Grant. The content does not necessarily represent the official views of the funding agency. The authors declare no potential conflicts of interest.

Reference: “SGLT2 inhibition attenuates arterial dysfunction and decreases vascular F-actin content and expression of proteins associated with oxidative stress in aged mice” by Rogerio N. Soares, Francisco I. Ramirez-Perez, Francisco J. Cabral-Amador, Mariana Morales-Quinones, Christopher A. Foote, Thaysa Ghiarone, Neekun Sharma, Gavin Power, James A. Smith, R. Scott Rector, Luis A. Martinez-Lemus, Jaume Padilla and Camila Manrique-Acevedo, 15 April 2022, GeroScience.
DOI: 10.1007/s11357-022-00563-x

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