Research published in Experimental Physiology shows that diabetes-induced changes in heartbeat are primarily regulated by the β1-adrenoceptor.

This discovery, once confirmed in humans, may lead to better treatment of heart problems in diabetics by enabling more targeted drugs to be produced.

Patients with type 2 diabetes can have problems with the regulation of their heartbeat. The heartbeat is partly regulated by receptors called beta-adrenoceptors.

There are two different forms, the β1 and β2, and each has a different function. The study found that the diabetes-induced changes in heartbeat are predominantly regulated by the β1-adrenoceptor, and not the β2-adrenoceptor.

Beta-blockers block hormones such as adrenaline and can be used to decrease heart rate and blood pressure in the treatment of conditions such as angina or high blood pressure.

Some beta-blockers are not effective in reducing the heartbeat of diabetics and can even worsen the blood glucose levels of patients. It is not known which beta-adrenoceptor type is responsible for these effects. This study suggests that beta-blockers targeting the β1-adrenoceptor would be more effective for diabetics.

The researchers implanted two devices into a rat model of diabetes. The first device measured blood pressure and heartbeat, and the second device injected drugs that reduce heartbeat by targeting the beta-adrenoceptors.

This approach allowed the researchers to distinguish between the contributions of the two different beta-adrenoceptors (β1 and b2).

Regis Lamberts, corresponding author said: “This study provides novel insight into the pathological basis of heart rate dysregulation in type 2 diabetes. This could help us develop drugs to better address heart problems in diabetics.”