Kidney, or renal, failure, also known as renal insufficiency, is an increasingly problematic complication of diabetes . Figures show that about 15 per cent of patients that suffer from type 2 diabetes will also develop diabetic nephropathy, a type of renal failure caused by gradual loss of kidney function . In serious cases, where nephropathy has developed over a number of years, this can result in having to undergo dialysis several times a week.
It was previously thought that kidney failure was due to the effect of the disruption of blood vessels by hyperglycemia on the vascular system leading to a surplus of blood glucose on the kidney. However, new research has found that the loss of kidney function is probably more due to the direct role that insulin plays on the cells involved in blood filtration.
Renal cells, called podocytes, need insulin to maintain their organisatio, which allows those involved in blood filtration to remain intact and function as normal.
A study carried out by the University of Bristol used mice that lacked the insulin receptor in their podocytes. Within just a few weeks the mice started to develop kidney problems similar to diabetic nephropathy. Dr Richard Coward who led the study pointed that the results appear to indicate that nephropathy could be less related to high blood sugar levels and more to an insensitivity of the podocyte cells towards insulin signals. When there is an impairment in insulin signaling, the cells ability to filter protein is affected.
The kidneys filter over 70 litres of blood every day, allowing for the exact control of the concentration of essential substances and eliminating all waste that the body does not want. With over half of all patients that require dialysis now also being diabetic, the cost to health services are great. The study underlines the importance of controlling insulin secretion and blood glucose levels for good health.

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