New research indicates that moderate-intensity exercise can counter the damage of diabetes by activating the growth of new blood vessels.
The research team from the Vascular Biology Center at the Medical College of Georgia have produced the first line of evidence that even one 45-minute session of moderate-intensity exercise can counter diabetes damage by enabling activation of a natural system, angiogenesis, that grows new blood vessels when existing ones are ravaged by this disease.
The findings were reported in The FASEB Journal.
Moderate-intensity exercise and exosomes
The researchers reported that moderate-intensity exercise enables more exosomes, submicroscopic packages filled with biologically active cargo, to deliver directly to those cells more of the protein, ATP7A, which can set angiogenesis in motion.
“Not unlike the most sophisticated and efficient delivery services we have all come to rely upon, particularly during the pandemic, what exosomes carry depends on where they come from and where they are headed,” said Dr Tohru Fukai, MCG vascular biologist and cardiologist.
The research team, which also included MCG vascular biologist Dr Masuko Ushio-Fukai, cannot confirm the origin of these helpful exosomes, but it is clear that they deliver to endothelial cells.
Investigating how cardio helps individuals with type 2 diabetes
In an animal model of type 2 diabetes and healthy individuals aged around 50 years old, two weeks of volunteer running on a wheel for the mice and one moderate-intensity exercise, including cardio training for the humans, increased levels of ATP7A in the exosomes that attached to endothelial cells.
At that point, the activity did not significantly impact the weight of the mice, the scientists note, but it did also increase a marker of endothelial function and factors like vascular endothelial growth factor needed for angiogenesis.
“Exercise also increased the amount of the powerful, natural antioxidant extracellular superoxide dismutase, or SOD3, but it’s the heavier payload of ATP7A, which is also known to deliver the essential mineral copper to cells, that is key to making good use of the SOD3 present,” Ushio-Fukai said.
SOD3 is an important natural antioxidant produced by vascular smooth muscle cells in the walls of blood vessels and skeletal muscle cells, it helps the body maintain healthy levels of reactive oxygen species or ROS. ROS is a natural by-product of our use of oxygen that is an important cell signal enabling a variety of functions. However, in diabetes, high blood sugar levels result in high ROS levels that instead hinder important normal functions.
Scientists have shown that ATP7A levels are reduced in diabetes. They also have evidence that exosomes circulating in the plasma of sedentary animal models of type 2 diabetes impair angiogenesis when placed in a dish with human endothelial cells, as well as in an animal model of wound healing.
The scientists suggest that synthetic exosomes, already under study as drug-delivery mechanisms, could one day work as an “exercise mimetic” to improve patients’ ability to grow new blood vessels when diabetes has damaged their innate ability.