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A novel approach to protect against kidney disease

Project summary

People with diabetes can develop damage to the blood vessels in their kidney. A protein, called VEGFC, can protect against this damage. Dr Foster plans to develop a new treatment,based on VEGFC . She’ll find out if the novel approach  can help cells to maintain protective levels of VEGFC to protect against kidney damage. This could lead to new treatments that protect people with diabetes from potentially life-threatening kidney complications.

Background to research

Having diabetes can mean you’re more likely to develop kidney disease. Over a long period of time, high blood sugar levels can damage small blood vessels in the kidney. This is where kidney disease starts, but at the moment there aren’t any treatments that work to stop or reverse early damage.

Proteins have critical jobs in our body. Our genes contain the instructions on how to make different proteins. One protein made in kidney cells, called VEGFC, can help to protect blood vessels. And Dr Foster has found that, in mice with diabetes, increasing levels of VEGFC can prevent kidney disease.

There’s evidence that this treatment is safe to test in people, and scientists have already carried out initial studies  using tissue from donor kidneys.

Research aims

Dr Foster will build on this to develop VEGFC therapy for kidney disease. Firstly, Dr Foster’s team will make the tools they need for VEGFC therapy in the kidney. VEGFC will be given to mouse and human kidney cells in a dish. The scientists will check that these cells are able to maintain levels  of VEGFC after  treatment.

Next, they’ll find out if VEGFC can stop kidney disease in mice with diabetes. They’ll compare the cells of mice that have and haven’t been treated – using specialised microscopes – to see whether the blood vessels are protected in mice given the treatment.

For the final step, they’ll explore if the  therapy works in human kidney tissue. They’ll take cells from donor kidneys, treat them with  VEGFC and check whether VEGFC levels have been boosted.

Potential benefit to people with diabetes

There’s an urgent need to find better treatments for kidney disease in people with diabetes. This research could lead to a new therapy for people who have early signs of damage in their kidneys. If successful, it could stop damage from getting worse, prevent kidney failure, and help people to live well and longer.

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