New Evidence Shows How Exercise Can Counter Diabetes Damage


Investigators find that 1 45-minute session of moderate intensity exercise allows more exosomes to deliver the protein, ATP7A, directly to endothelial cells, which can help enable angiogenesis.

Exercise can help fix the damage caused by diabetes by enabling activation of a natural system that grows new blood vessels when existing ones are damaged by the disease, investigators at the Vascular Biology Center at the Medical College of Georgia said in a statement.

Diabetes damages the existing blood cells and prevents new ones from growing, particularly endothelial cells, which line the blood vessels and help new blood cells grow, the investigators said.

They found that 1 45-minute session of moderate intensity exercise enables more exosomes, submicroscopic packages filled with biologically active cargo, to deliver the protein, ATP7A, directly to those cells, which can help enable angiogenesis.

Exosomes have become an efficient delivery service, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, and what they carry depends on where they come from and where they are headed, Tohru Fukai, MD, PhD, FAHA, a vascular biologist and cardiologist at MCG, said in a statement.

The origins of the exosomes are unknown, but they deliver to the endothelial cells, Fukai said.

In both an animal model of type 2 diabetes (T2D) and healthy individuals in their 50s, 2 weeks of running on a wheel for mice and 1 cardio session for humans increased the levels of ATP7A in the exosomes that attached to endothelial cells.

The activity did not significantly affect the weight of the mice, but it increased a marker of endothelial function and factors including the vascular endothelial growth factor needed for angiogenesis, investigators said.

Exercise has also increased the amount of the natural antioxidant extracellular superoxide dismutase (SOD3) but has a heavier “payload” of ATP7A, which is known to deliver copper to cells, investigators said.

SOD3 is produced by vascular smooth muscle cells in the blood vessel walls and skeletal muscle cells and helps maintain healthy levels of reactive oxygen species (ROS), which is the byproduct of used oxygen that is an important signal to cells and enables a variety of functions.

However, in diabetes, high blood glucose levels result in high ROS levels that interfere with normal functions.

Investigators found that ATP7A levels are also reduced in diabetes, but the evidence of exosomes circulating in the plasma of sedentary animal models of T2D impair angiogenesis when placed in a dish with human endothelial cells. It also affects the animal model of wound healing.

Investigators suggest that synthetic exosomes could help to work as “exercise mimetic” to improve an individual’s ability to grow new blood vessels when diabetes has damaged their innate ability.

Additionally, the investigators have already generated exosomes in which SOD3 is over expressed and found improved angiogenesis and healing in a mouse model of diabetes.

Exosomes are being studied as biomarkers for a wide range of diseases, such as cancer and diabetes, as well as precise treatment delivery tools. For example, exosomes produced by a cancer cell will hone back to a cancer cell.


New evidence of how exercise can counter diabetes damage. EurekAlert. News release. April 26, 2022. Accessed April 26, 2022.

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