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Discovering new drugs for diabetic kidney disease

Project summary

Kidney disease is a complication of diabetes, which begins with damage to the filtration barrier of the kidney. At the moment, there are very few drugs which directly prevent this initial damage. Dr Long plans to screen over 1,200 potential new drugs for diabetic kidney disease, testing them in zebrafish. This could inform the development of new kidney disease treatments in the future.

Background to research

People with diabetes are at risk of a number of complications, including diabetic kidney disease. Currently, medications to slow diabetic kidney disease are limited, and people with the condition require lifelong dialysis and, in some cases, kidney transplantation. Currently, there is no cure.

One way to improve the health of people with diabetic kidney disease could be to intervene in the early stages of disease, when the filtration barrier in the kidney becomes damaged. The filtration barrier regulates the amount of fluid and salts inside the body by filtering the blood. Damage to small blood vessels inside the kidney prevents the filtration barrier from being able to do its job properly. At the moment, there are very few drugs available designed to slow the damage down.

Dr Long has previously established a model for studying diabetic kidney disease in zebrafish. This model is a reproducible and reliable method for initially testing new drugs. He hopes this will help to identify new drugs to directly work on the kidney’s filtration barrier.

Research aims

Using their zebrafish model of diabetic kidney disease, Dr Long’s PhD student will test the effects of 1,280 new drugs on the function of the kidney filtration barrier.

They will explore the most encouraging 15-20 drugs by assessing their effects on the structure and function of the kidney filtration barrier in more detail.

They will then narrow this down again and test four or five of the most promising drugs on mouse kidney filtration cells grown in the lab, to confirm how effective they are at enabling the filtration barrier to do its job.

Potential benefit to people with diabetes

We need treatments to prevent or slow kidney disease in people with diabetes. If this project is successful, it could identify drugs that, in the long run, go on to become future treatments for diabetic kidney disease.

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