Targeting endothelial metaflammation to counteract diabesity cardiovascular risk: Current and perspective therapeutic options

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Abstract

The association of obesity and diabetes, termed “diabesity”, defines a combination of primarily metabolic disorders with insulin resistance as the underlying common pathophysiology. Cardiovascular disorders associated with diabesity represent the leading cause of morbidity and mortality in the Western world. This makes diabesity, with its rising impacts on both health and economics, one of the most challenging biomedical and social threats of present century. The emerging comprehension of the genes whose alteration confers inter-individual differences on risk factors for diabetes or obesity, together with the potential role of genetically determined variants on mechanisms controlling responsiveness, effectiveness and safety of anti-diabetic therapy underlines the need of additional knowledge on molecular mechanisms involved in the pathophysiology of diabesity. Endothelial cell dysfunction, resulting from the unbalanced production of endothelial-derived vascular mediators, is known to be present at the earliest stages of insulin resistance and obesity, and may precede the clinical diagnosis of diabetes by several years. Once considered as a mere consequence of metabolic abnormalities, it is now clear that endothelial dysfunctional activity may play a pivotal role in the progression of diabesity. In the vicious circle where vascular defects and metabolic disturbances worsen and reinforce each other, a low-grade, chronic, and ‘cold’ inflammation (metaflammation) has been suggested to serve as the pathophysiological link that binds endothelial and metabolic dysfunctions. In this paradigm, it is important to consider how traditional antidiabetic treatments (specifically addressing metabolic dysregulation) may directly impact on inflammatory processes or cardiovascular function. Indeed, not all drugs currently available to treat diabetes possess the same anti-inflammatory potential, or target endothelial cell function equally. Perspective strategies pointing at reducing metaflammation or directly addressing endothelial dysfunction may disclose beneficial consequences on metabolic regulation. This review focuses on existing and potential new approaches ameliorating endothelial dysfunction and vascular inflammation in the context of diabesity.

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