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Reactive oxygen species signalling in the diabetic heart: emerging prospect for therapeutic targeting
  1. Adam J Wilson1,
  2. Eleanor K Gill1,2,
  3. Rawan A Abudalo1,2,
  4. Kevin S Edgar1,
  5. Chris J Watson1,
  6. David J Grieve1,2
  1. 1 Centre for Experimental Medicine, Queen’s University Belfast, Belfast, UK
  2. 2 British Society for Cardiovascular Research, Belfast, UK
  1. Correspondence to David J Grieve, Centre for Experimental Medicine, Queen’s University Belfast, Wellcome-Wolfson Building, 97 Lisburn Road, Belfast BT9 7AE, UK; d.grieve{at}


Despite being first described 45 years ago, the existence of a distinct diabetic cardiomyopathy remains controversial. Nonetheless, it is widely accepted that the diabetic heart undergoes characteristic structural and functional changes in the absence of ischaemia and hypertension, which are independently linked to heart failure progression and are likely to underlie enhanced susceptibility to stress. A prominent feature is marked collagen accumulation linked with inflammation and extensive extracellular matrix changes, which appears to be the main factor underlying cardiac stiffness and subclinical diastolic dysfunction, estimated to occur in as many as 75% of optimally controlled diabetics. Whether this characteristic remodelling phenotype is primarily driven by microvascular dysfunction or alterations in cardiomyocyte metabolism remains unclear. Although hyperglycaemia regulates multiple pathways in the diabetic heart, increased reactive oxygen species (ROS) generation is thought to represent a central mechanism underlying associated adverse remodelling. Indeed, experimental and clinical diabetes are linked with oxidative stress which plays a key role in cardiomyopathy, while key processes underlying diabetic cardiac remodelling, such as inflammation, angiogenesis, cardiomyocyte hypertrophy and apoptosis, fibrosis and contractile dysfunction, are redox sensitive. This review will explore the relative contributions of the major ROS sources (dysfunctional nitric oxide synthase, mitochondria, xanthine oxidase, nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate oxidases) in the diabetic heart and the potential for therapeutic targeting of ROS signalling using novel pharmacological and non-pharmacological approaches to modify specific aspects of the remodelling phenotype in order to prevent and/or delay heart failure development and progression.

  • Diabetes
  • heart failure with preserved ejection fraction
  • myocardial disease basic science
  • vascular biology

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  • Contributors AJW, EKG, RAA, KSE and CJW drafted the manuscript. DJG revised the manuscript critically for important intellectual content. All authors have approved the final submitted version.

  • Funding This commissioned review article was written with the support of the British Society for Cardiovascular Research. The authors’ work is funded by the British Heart Foundation.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; externally peer reviewed.