A Queen's University scientist has been awarded more than £260,000 by the British Heart Foundation Northern Ireland to look into combating the link between diabetes and major cardiovascular diseases.
Dr Andriana Margariti and her team at the Centre for Experimental Medicine have been granted £264k to develop new ways to diagnose and treat people with diabetes.
Blood cells donated by patients will be used to try to repair cell damage caused by the disease - and reverse its effects.
"Diabetes is a major risk factor for heart attacks, stroke, lower limb amputation, kidney failure and blindness, all of which are devastating conditions which severely affect quality of life," said Dr Margariti.
She added that it is estimated by 2025 there will be around 300m people across the world with diabetes.
The cause and progression of the disease begins with the damage of particular cells that line our arteries named endothelial cells.
Understanding the causes of his damage could help screen for the disease and improve quality of life, she added.
More than 92,000 people in Northern Ireland have diabetes.
Around 10 per cent have Type 1 and 90 per cent have Type 2. Thousands more are estimated to have Type 2 but have not been diagnosed.
The condition makes adults two to three times more likely to develop heart and circulatory problems such as coronary heart disease, stroke and vascular dementia.
The scientists are investigating how a harmful form of a molecule known as 'quaking' may help damage blood vessels in people with diabetes.
They will look into how quaking affects the function of endothelial cells which they have grown in a lab from tiny blood samples taken from people with and without diabetes.
The team believe the harmful form of this molecule is higher in the cells of people with diabetes, and they hope to uncover how the increase occurs and whether reversing it could prevent damage to blood vessels.
In discovering what causes an increase in this "bad" form of quaking, the findings could be used to treat the heart problems associated with diabetes or screen patients sooner.
Karen McCammon, from BHF NI, said: "We are delighted to award this grant to Dr Margariti and her team at Queen's University.
"Having diabetes makes adults two to three times more likely to develop heart and circulatory disease, so that is why we are funding this research so we can beat the heartbreak of these conditions and their risk factors."