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Students’ discovery could affect diabetes drug prescriptions

Back, from left: Mu Ji Hwang, Arun Lakshmanan, Haidar Kubba and Dr. Chris Triggle. Front: Dr. Hong Ding.
Back, from left: Mu Ji Hwang, Arun Lakshmanan, Haidar Kubba and Dr. Chris Triggle. Front: Dr. Hong Ding.

Research conducted by three WCM-Q medical students may have implications for diabetics and the drugs that doctors select when treating the disease.

Mu Ji Hwang, of the Class of 2018, and Haidar Kubba and Ahmed Mushannen of the Class of 2017 helped demonstrate that the diabetes drug metformin also helps protect the endothelial cells of the body’s vasculature – the network of blood vessels – from the effects of high blood glucose levels. The information is so significant that a research paper is now going to be published by the high-impact journal Biochemical Pharmacology.

The students were supported by WCM-Q’s Dr. Hong Ding, assistant research professor of pharmacology; Dr. Chris Triggle, professor of pharmacology; Arun Lakshmanan, postdoctoral associate in pharmacology; and Suparna Ghosh, research specialist, in co-authoring the paper, entitled ‘Metformin improves endothelial function in aortic tissue and microvascular endothelial cells subjected to diabetic hyperglycaemic conditions’.

Dr. Ding, who was the corresponding author of the paper, said that the students had already been placed second in the oral presentation category of the Undergraduate Research Experience Program (UREP) for the research, but additional funding from the National Priorities Research Program had allowed them, with the support of Dr. Triggle’s laboratory, to extend the metformin data to convincingly demonstrate its protective qualities on the vasculature. This could have significant implications when doctors are selecting drugs with which to treat diabetic patients.

Dr. Ding explained:

“Metformin is the first line drug used for the treatment of type 2 diabetes and is used daily by approximately 125 million people worldwide. Our results are of particular significance as although metformin remains the first choice drug for the treatment of type 2 diabetes there are many alternative recently introduced drugs that can be used. However, because of the importance of demonstrating a cardiovascular protective action for drugs used for type 2 diabetes these newly introduced drugs should be compared to metformin to determine whether they have comparable beneficial effects.

Such data will prove very valuable in determining the most beneficial therapeutic approaches to reducing the impact of diabetes on cardiovascular disease.”

Dr. Triggle added that he had been very impressed with the dedication of the students involved and that it was a great honor for them to have such a significant piece of research published so early on in their medical and research careers.

Dr. Khaled Machaca, associate dean for research at WCM-Q, added:

“It is refreshing and quite rewarding to see this type of productive collaboration between our faculty and students especially in the context of studies on diabetes which is an important clinical issue for Qatar.”

The full research paper can be read here