Aiming to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease in patients with diabetes

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Thomas Nyström is researching into cardiovascular disease in patients with diabetes. His interests are focused on the intestinal hormone GLP-1. This is used as a diabetes drug, but has also been shown to have a protective effect on the blood vessels, heart and brain.

Thomas Nyström. Foto: Creo Media Group.People with diabetes run a far higher risk of being affected by cardiovascular disease. Thomas Nyström is conducting research into this excess risk and how it can be reduced. His primary focus is the intestinal hormone GLP-1 and the various drugs that increase the concentration of GLP-1 in the body. These substances have been developed as diabetes drugs, but have also been shown to have positive effects on the blood vessels, heart and brain. 

“We diabetes physicians now have a very extensive palette of drugs to work with in regard to type 2 diabetes, and we need to find out more about how they affect the cardiovascular system,” Thomas Nyström comments. “Large follow-up studies have shown that the drug that is linked with GLP-1 has a protective effect on cardiovascular disease, but we still do not know how.” 

Thomas Nyström’s research on GLP-1 started with a clinical study which showed that the hormone improved vascular function in individuals with type 2 diabetes after a heart attack. Nyström has since acquired expertise in numerous research fields such as molecular biology and experimental studies in order to investigate the mechanisms behind this relationship and the clinical potential. 

“For example, we have shown how GLP-1 affects the blood vessel cells and that the hormone releases vessel dilating nitrogen monoxide,” he explains. “Now I am again involved in studies on people, in which we investigate how GLP-1 affects cardiac function in people with mild heart failure. We have also initiated a clinical study on whether GLP-1 can counteract complications in individuals with diabetes who have undergone balloon dila tation and stent implantation in the carotid vessels.”

Thomas Nyström 

Professor of Medicine specialising in Diabetology at the Department of Clinical Research and Education, Södersjukhuset

Thomas Nyström was born in Lidköping in 1962 and educated at Karolinska Institutet, taking his doctor’s exams in 1994. He received his medical licence in 1997, qualified as a specialist in internal medicine in 2002, and as a specialist in endocrinology and diabetes in 2006. As a clinician he has always worked at Södersjukhuset, where he has been a Consultant since 2006.
Nyström defended his PhD thesis at KI in 2005 becoming an Associate Professor in 2012. In addition, he is the Director of Studies for the course “Den sjuka människan 2” (Disease and Illness 2), which is part of the doctors’ education programme. On 1 March 2017, Thomas Nyström was appointed Professor of Medicine specialising in Diabetology at Karolinska Institutet.

Text: Anders Nilsson, translated from Swedish, first published in “From Cell to Society” 2017.

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