The University of Bristol is investigating how a process called “alternative splicing” could lead to a potential new way of treating diabetes.
Dr. Sebastian Oltean and his team have been granted £268,000 by the British Heart Foundation (BHF) to proceed further with this research.
What is alternative splicing?
Alternative splicing helps turn sections of our DNA into proteins which carry out important functions in the body. However, when the process occurs in people with diabetes, it doesn’t take place correctly, causing malfunction.
Because abnormal proteins are produced, the kidneys can become damaged. This then accelerates diabetes-related complications such as diabetic nephropathy (kidney disease).
Oltean wants to investigate the mechanisms that go wrong during alternative splicing in people with diabetes, and try to switch the production of damaged proteins back to useful ones. He believes understanding this malfunction could lead to a new approach for treating diabetes.
Oltean said: “In recent years it has become increasingly clear that the alternative splicing process is involved in the progression of disease, including diabetes.
“If we can understand the mechanisms that turn alternative splicing to malfunction in the kidney when affected by diabetes, it would provide a new target for the development of treatments which stop this process happening.”
Dr. Shannon Amoils, Senior Research Adviser at the BHF, added: “Manipulating alternative splicing to favour the production of beneficial proteins over damaging proteins in the diabetic kidney is a challenging, but innovative strategy.
“Diabetes is a serious condition that greatly increases the risk of heart and circulatory disease as well as kidney disease, and it’s vital that we fund projects, like Dr Oltean’s, to explore new avenues for treatment.”

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