DNA samples from people with diabetes could help identify the genetic factors in diabetic nephropathy (kidney disease), researchers report.
Scientists at Queen’s University Belfast are to examine 20,000 DNA samples as part of a new five-year research project. The initiative will bring together experts in diabetes and genetics from Queen’s University, University College Dubli, University of Helsinki in Finland and the Broad Institute, US.
The project will aim to explain why some people with diabetes have a higher risk of developing diabetic nephropathy, the leading cause of kidney failure worldwide.
Diabetic nephropathy is often detected once it is at an advantaged stage: over 50,000 patients in the UK experience end-stage kidney failure, which requires kidney transplant or chronic dialysis to treat. One in four patients starting dialysis in the UK and Ireland each year has diabetic nephropathy.
Professor Peter Maxwell from the Centre for Public Health at Queen’s University explained that the research team are also hoping to assess how having poor blood glucose control over a long period of time can re-program DNA and increase the risk of developing kidney complications.
By analysing these samples, Maxwell hopes that new treatments could be targeted. “We aim to develop new tests that could be used to screen people with diabetes to assess their risk of developing kidney complications and help select the best preventative treatment,” he said.
“We are excited to be working with this international team of talented scientists and clinicians to discover new information to help improve outcomes for patients with diabetic kidney disease.”

This project is part of a new US-Ireland research partnership which has received grants from the US-Ireland Research and Development Partnership Programme.
Dr Janice Bailie, Assistant Director of the Public Health Agency’s HSC R&D Division, which is funding the Northern Ireland part of this project with the Medical Research Council, said: “We expect that the outcomes of this international research will lead to significant advances in the treatment of patients with diabetic kidney disease in the UK, Ireland and beyond.”

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