New finding could help form diabetes-related kidney damage treatment
A team from Edinburgh University said that for the first time they have found a link between a key molecule and diabetic kidney disease, commonly known as diabetic nephropathy.
Previous work has found this molecule, a protein called P2X7R, plays an important role in the immune system and inflammation, and kidney diseases which are nothing to do with diabetes.
The study's findings showed that when the protein is blocked in rats and mice by using a specific drug, it was possible to prevent kidney damage.
"This study is a major advance in understanding how kidney damage occurs in diabetes and where we might focus our efforts in finding a treatment," said Dr Robert Menzies, British Heart Foundation and immediate fellow at Edinburgh University.
During the trial samples taken from people with diabetes indicated high levels of P2X7R, but there was little evidence of the protein in those who did not have the condition at all. The protein was linked to poor kidney function and increased tissue scarring.
But when mice were engineered to lack the gene that makes P2X7R, they did not develop kidney scarring in response to diabetes. The researchers believe this suggests that kidney damage could be prevented.
"Diabetic kidney disease is reaching epidemic levels, but we are still searching for that blockbuster drug to help patients," added Menzies.
"Our next studies are being designed to determine if the P2X7R-blocking drug, which is already known to be safe in humans, could reverse more severe kidney damage or even prevent it. These studies are a very encouraging move forward."
The findings have been published in the EBioMedicine journal.