Director, Cardiovascular Research Centre, University of Alberta
President & CEO, Diabetes Canada
Dr. Jason Dyck’s research focuses on preventing heart-related complications for people living with type 2 diabetes.
Diabetes is a major risk factor for developing cardiovascular disease. In fact, Canadians with diabetes are over three times more likely to be hospitalized with cardiovascular disease than individuals without diabetes. As well, research shows that cardiovascular disease accounts for 44 per cent of deaths in people with Type 1 Diabetes and 52 per cent of deaths in people with Type 2 Diabetes.
High blood sugar is one risk factor for heart attack or stroke, but people with diabetes often have other risk factors. People who smoke or have a family history of heart disease or stroke are at even higher risk.
Dr. Jason Dyck is the Director of the Cardiovascular Research Centre at the University of Alberta. His research is focused on better understanding the relationship between type 2 diabetes and poor heart function, with the goal of discovering how to slow or prevent this complication. His team is studying diabetic cardiomyopathy, which happens when someone with diabetes has worsening heart function, even without having any other risk factors.
Understanding heart cell damage
Dr. Dyck and his team have identified a protein in the heart that’s found at a higher level in animal models with diabetes. This protein increases heart cell damage. Their research will improve understanding of how this protein damages heart cells, and will seek to prevent poor heart function during the development of diabetes.
Dr. Dyck’s goal is to develop treatment strategies for patients at risk for, or who have already developed, diabetic heart disease.
“We’ve found that when we inhibit this specific protein, cardiac cells actually do better,” he says. “We believe that by inhibiting it, we can help improve heart function.”
Dr. Dyck is grateful for funding from Diabetes Canada toward his research and believes that more awareness is needed regarding the far-reaching impact of diabetes. In fact, it has been estimated that if diabetes were eliminated, there would be a 19.1 per cent global decrease in the rate of heart attacks in women and a 10.1 per cent decrease for men.
“You don’t hear that someone died from diabetes, but they’re dying from the consequences,” says Dr. Dyck. “So, you may hear that a friend has died from cardiovascular disease. But if we had prevented or cured diabetes, this may never have happened.”
Funding diabetes research
Since 1975, Diabetes Canada has provided more than $150 million in research grants, awards, and partnerships to scientists across the country to improve the quality of life for people living with diabetes and to find a cure. Research areas include diabetes management, care and risk-reduction in fields such as biomedical, clinical, health services, and population health research.
“Dr. Dyck’s research is addressing one of the deadliest complications related to type 2 diabetes, and has the potential to dramatically improve the quality of life for millions of people in Canada living with diabetes, such as myself,” says President & CEO of Diabetes Canada Laura Syron. “That’s why we are so excited to invest in researchers like Dr. Dyck and his team as they work to advance these new discoveries and breakthroughs.”
“I’m a cardiovascular researcher, so I’m looking at different disease conditions. But if I talked to my clinical colleagues, I would surmise that most of the people they’re seeing with cardiovascular disease also have diabetes,” says Dr. Dyck. “Funding from Diabetes Canada allows me to directly ask questions related to diabetes and how it relates to cardiovascular disease. I’m grateful to Diabetes Canada and to its donors for enabling me to do this work.”
To learn more about how diabetes plays a role in your cardiovascular health, visit diabetes.ca.