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Increased levels of glucagon in type 2 diabetes are well known and, until now, have been considered deleterious. However, glucagon has an important role in the maintenance of both heart and kidney function. Moreover, in the past, glucagon has been therapeutically used for heart failure treatment. The new antidiabetic drugs, dipeptidyl peptidase-4 inhibitors and sodium-glucose co-transporter-2 inhibitors, are able to decrease and to increase glucagon levels, respectively, while contrasting data have been reported regarding the glucagon like peptide 1 receptors agonists. The cardiovascular outcome trials, requested by the FDA, raised some concerns about the possibility that the dipeptidyl peptidase-4 inhibitors can precipitate the heart failure, while, at least for empagliflozin, a positive effect has been shown in decreasing both cardiovascular death and heart failure. The recent LEADER Trial, showed a significant reduction of cardiovascular death with liraglutide, but a neutral effect on heart failure. A possible explanation of the results with the DPPIV inhibitors and empagliflozin might be related to their divergent effect on glucagon levels. Due to unclear effects of glucagon like peptide 1 receptor agonists on glucagon, the possible role of this hormone in the Leader trial remains unclear.
Ceriello, A., Genovese, S., Mannucci, E., & Gronda, E. (2016). Glucagon and heart in type 2 diabetes: New perspectives. Cardiovascular Diabetology, 15(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12933-016-0440-3
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