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New peptide may reduce the risk of diabetes complications

Jan Nilsson and Filiz Serifler in the lab photo Petra Olsson
Jan Nilsson's research group has identified a substance that stimulates the repair capacity and growth of vascular cells. Biomedical analyst Filiz Serifler has contributed to the project. Photo: Petra Olsson

Heart attack and stroke are common complications of diabetes, as the body's ability to repair and form vessels is impaired. Researchers at Lund University have developed a new substance with the capacity to stimulate vascular repair response and the formation of vessels.

In diabetes, the body's ability to repair vascular damage caused by the disease is impaired, which can lead to complications such as heart attack and stroke. Another common complication of diabetes is chronic ulcers in feet and legs, and a reason for this is that the body's ability to form new vessels is impaired.
Previous research has shown that the protein osteopontin plays an important role in wound healing in animals. An international team of researchers led by Lund University has modified this protein and created a new substance named FOL-026. A new study published in the journal Pharmacological Research shows that FOL-026 stimulates the repair capacity of vascular cells and the formation of new vessels.


Our results are exciting and may be of particular importance to people with diabetes


Complications of diabetes

The researchers investigated the effect of the peptide on human vascular cells and found that exposure to FOL-026 increased cell growth. Further studies in mice showed that FOL-026 stimulated the growth of new vessels and that the substance binds to a receptor responsible for forming and repairing vessels in the human body.
– Our results are exciting and may be of particular importance to people with diabetes. A reduced ability to repair damaged vessels increases the risk of developing a heart attack or stroke, which are common complications of diabetes. We hope that we will be able to develop a drug that can reduce the risk of developing a heart attack or stroke in people with diabetes," says Jan Nilsson, senior professor of experimental cardiovascular research at Lund University Diabetes Centre, who led the study.

Collaboration with company

The researchers will now investigate how the substance affects insulin secretion and blood sugar levels in mice with diabetes. Long term, the goal is to develop a drug for people with diabetes that can lower blood sugar levels and stimulate insulin secretion, while also protecting the body against complications in the heart and blood vessels. The research is developed in close collaboration between Lund University Diabetes Centre and the company Coegin Pharma in Lund.
– This is a good example of what we can achieve by collaborating with pharmaceutical companies. Collaborations with companies help create conditions for experimental research to develop into treatments that can benefit patients, says Jan Nilsson, who is also a scientific advisor at Coegin Pharma.


Identification of an osteopontin-derived peptide that binds neuropilin-1 and activates vascular repair responses and angiogenesis
Pharmacological Research, July 2024

Novo Nordisk Foundation, Swedish Research Council, Swedish Heart and Lung Foundation, Royal Physiographic Society in Lund, Coegin Pharma, Vinnova, National Natural Science Foundation of China, Shanghai Sailing Program. The study has been conducted within LUDC-IRC, a research collaboration supported by the Swedish Foundation for Strategic Research. 

Declaration of interests
Jan Nilsson and Anna Hultgårdh at Lund University carry out consultancy assignments for Coegin Pharma. Jan Nilsson and Anna Hultgårdh have a patent issued to Coegin Pharma and Anna Hultgårdh has a patent pending to Coegin Pharma.