New anti-inflammatory drugs have positive effect on diabetes and cardiovascular disease

A study by researchers at Aarhus University shows that certain drugs that affect the immune system may also be able to treat patients with diabetes and cardiovascular disease in the future.

Tue Wenzel Kragstrup from the Department of Biomedicine. Photo: Simon Fischel, AU Health

Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease are common diseases with serious consequences for patients. A new study shows that anti-inflammatory drugs with a particular mode of action could also have a positive effect on these diseases where preventive measures traditionally aim at lowering blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose levels.

The researchers have conducted a systematic literature review on clinical trials examining the effect of antirheumatic drugs (normally used to treat patients with autoimmune diseases) on patients with either type 2 diabetes or cardiovascular disease. It seems that drugs that inhibit the inflammatory signalling molecule interleukin-1β can help patients with these two diseases.

“Our study provides better insight into the specific immunological mechanisms that cause type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease," says Rasmus Rugård Mikkelsen, who is the first author of the literature review.

This is the first study that systematically evaluates the effect of these drugs on type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

"The results show that immune-modulating treatment targeted at certain parts of the inflammatory process can supplement existing treatments of these two diseases," he says.

Great significance for many people

Rasmus Rugård Mikkelsen stresses that if treating underlying inflammatory processes can prevent insulin resistance or the formation of new blood clots, this could potentially impact the health of millions of people.

The results have been published in the European Journal of pharmacology.

According to the researchers, the study provides better immunological understanding of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases that may eventually improve treatment options.

"Understanding the immune responses involved in the development of the diseases could pave the way for a more focused anti-inflammatory treatment," says Tue Wenzel Kragstrup, who led the research team behind the study.

However, Tue Wenzel Kragstrup emphasises that further research will be needed before using anti-inflammatory drugs to treat type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

"For example, it would be relevant to test whether other anti-rheumatic drugs that affect other parts of the immune system could also have an effect on the two diseases. Furthermore, we need to thoroughly balance the effect of an anti-inflammatory treatment with side effects and financial costs,” he explains.

The results confirm previous findings from test tube and animal experiments, which show that the inflammatory signaling molecule interleukin-1β is involved in the development of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The results are also in line with studies showing the beneficial effect of anti-rheumatic drugs on the two diseases when the drugs are administered to patients with chronic, inflammatory joint disease.

Background for the results

The study is a review of clinical trials investigating the effect of anti-inflammatory drugs on patients with either type 2 diabetes or cardiovascular disease.

The study was completed collaboratively by researchers and doctors from the Department of Biomedicine, the Department of Clinical Medicine, the Department of Rheumatology, Steno Diabetes Center, the Department of Clinical Pharmacology, and the University of Oviedo.

Tue Wenzel Kragstrup received a grant from the Danish Council for Independent Research.

The results have been published in the European Journal of Pharmacology


Associate Professor Tue Wenzel Kragstrup, MD, PhD
Aarhus University, Department of Biomedicine
Rheumatology specialist medical training programme, Silkeborg Regional Hospital, Diagnostic Centre
Phone: (+45) 29 82 17 39