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Wednesday, 2 October, 2002, 18:00 GMT 19:00 UK
Diabetes drugs 'help people look younger'
Drugs could help prevent the development of wrinkles
Drugs could help prevent the development of wrinkles
Blood pressure medicine which prevents potentially fatal complications of diabetes may one day lead to drugs which can delay the effects of ageing.

The medication reduces the accelerated ageing which affects diabetics, especially those with Type 1 which people often develop in childhood.

The condition can lead to blindness, heart and kidney disease and high blood pressure, which can strike far earlier than normal.

But diabetics taking drugs called ACE inhibitors suffer these complications less than those taking other blood-pressure lowering medications.


There's no tablet that has a universal effect on the ageing process

Professor Stuart Parker, Sheffield Institute for Studies on Ageing
ACE inhibitors can cause unpleasant side effects such as coughing and an irregular heartbeat, making it an unlikely candidate for an anti-ageing drug for all.

But New Scientist magazine suggests that understanding how they block the diabetic ageing process may lead to drugs which do not have these side effects.

The ageing seen in diabetics happens partly because having high-blood sugar levels leads to the production of complex proteins called advanced glycation end products (AGEs).

These interfere with how some cells function and make tissues such as blood vessels stiffer.

They can also accumulate in the skin, helping make it wrinkly.

AGEs form much more slowly in healthy people.

'Complete prevention'

Tests on rats carried out by Australian researchers has suggested how ACE inhibitors help diabetics.

Researchers from the Baker Institute in Melbourne, Australia found an ACE inhibitor called ramipril stopped the build-up of AGEs in rats with diabetes.

The animals also had far less damage to their kidneys.

Josephine Forbes, who worked on the study, said: "There was complete prevention".

Juliana Chan, a diabetes expert at the Chinese University of Hong Kong said ACE inhibitors were the first choice blood pressure medication for diabetics, but she said they were not a panacea.

"Diabetics still need to control their blood glucose, stop smoking and have their risk factors controlled."

The research will be published next month in the journal Diabetes.

Side effects

The team will now look at the blood of diabetics taking ACE inhibitors to see if their AGE levels are lower.

They are also looking at different types of AGEs to see which cause the problem.

ACE (angiotensin-converting enzyme) inhibitors work by blocking the production of angiotensin II, a protein which makes blood vessels constrict.

The protein could also increase oxidative stress, which it is believed damages cells by creating free radicals which then stimulate the production of AGEs.

ACE inhibitors have also been linked reducing the loss of muscle strength in elderly women, the development of Alzheimer's Disease and heart disease.

Many ACE inhibitors are no longer covered by patents and could prove cheaper that drugs currently being designed to inhibit AGEs.

New Scientist says: "ACE inhibitors are unlikely to become an elixir of youth because they cause unpleasant side effects such as coughing and irregular heartbeat.

"But future drugs designed to block AGEs might have fewer side effects."

'Big leap'

But Professor Stuart Parker, clinical director of the Sheffield Institute for Studies on Ageing, told BBC News Online: "There's no tablet that has a universal effect on the ageing process, so could therefore be said to slow the ageing process."

He said ACE inhibitors did have a beneficial effect on health - when used for treatment for specific conditions.

But he added: "It seems a big leap to go from that to assuming that ACE inhibitors are going to help us all look younger."

See also:

01 Oct 01 | Health
09 Nov 99 | Health
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