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Lymphatic vessels: A new way to stop kidney disease?

Project summary

Kidney disease is a common complication for people with diabetes. Evidence suggests that important tubes in our kidneys called lymphatic vessels may play a role in the development of diabetic kidney disease. Dr David Long wants to study the lymphatic vessels during the development of kidney disease, and look for ways to stop and reverse any damage to the kidneys. This could lead to the development of new treatments for kidney disease in the future.

Background to research

Kidney disease is a common complication for people with diabetes, which in serious cases can lead to dialysis or kidney transplantation. In diabetic kidney disease, the lymphatics in the kidneys expand. The lymphatic vessels are tubes which clear out dead cells and excess fluid from around the body.

There’s some evidence to suggest that the lymphatic vessels could play a role in the development of kidney disease, and Dr Long thinks that they could hold clues to how to prevent the condition.

Research aims

Dr Long’s student will first examine how the lymphatic vessels change during the development of diabetic kidney disease. They will take detailed 3D images of the lymphatic vessels in mice with diabetes at early, mid and late stages of kidney disease.

They will then collect lymphatic cells from the kidneys of the mice and study their genes. They want to understand how the genetic make-up of the lymphatic vessels change at different stages of kidney disease, and see if those changes also affect other parts of the kidneys.

Finally, the student will deliver a gene therapy to diabetic mouse kidneys. The therapy uses a virus which has been engineered to raise the levels of a protein called VEGF-C in the kidneys. VEGF-C encourages the lymphatic system to grow. The student wants to see if VEGF-C could stop or even reverse kidney damage in the mice.

Potential benefit to people with diabetes

Kidney disease is a common complication for people with diabetes, with limited treatment options when it gets serious. Understanding more about how kidney disease develops could lead to earlier diagnosis and better treatments. If this research can stop or undo kidney damage in mice, it could lead to new treatments for people with diabetes.

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