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Blocking bad proteins to combat type 2 complications

Project summary

Some people with type 2 diabetes are treated with drugs called SGLT2 inhibitors. As well as lowering blood sugar levels, these seem to keep the heart and kidneys safe from damage caused by inflammation. Professor Claire Hills wants to figure out how they protect kidney cells. Her work could help make sure more people benefit from SGLT2’s and could unlock new treatments that tackle inflammation and further reduce the risk of complications. 

Background to research

People living with type 2 diabetes are at a higher risk of complications like heart and kidney problems. This is because high blood sugar levels can lead to inflammation, and this can cause damage to organs in the body.  

SGLT2 inhibitors are a type of drug that some people with type 2 diabetes take. They work to bring down blood sugar levels, but recent research has shown that they’re also able to protect the heart and kidneys from inflammation and damage. But we don’t currently know exactly how they do this. 

A protein called interleukin-1-beta plays a part in damaging the heart and kidneys by causing inflammation, and making it worse by encouraging other damaging proteins to get involved. Professor Claire Hills and her team think that SGLT2 inhibitors might be stopping interleukin-1-beta from working. Now they want to delve deeper. 

Research aims

Prof Hills and her team will grow three types of kidney cells in the lab and expose them to conditions that mimic diabetic kidney disease.  

They’ll treat the injured cells with different SGLT2 inhibitors, and see if they can reverse the action of interleukin-1-beta and other harmful proteins, and how they do it.  

They’ll specifically study how SGLT2 inhibitors can provide protection by coaching kidney cells to work together and fight off damage. 

Potential benefit to people with diabetes

By unravelling exactly how SGLT2 inhibitors keep kidney cells safe, Prof Hills’ research could help find more people with type 2 diabetes who could benefit these treatments, protecting them from complications down the line. This work could also help scientists to develop more treatments that slow down damage and tackle inflammation linked to other complications. 

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