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Finding new ways to stop diabetes-related kidney damage

Project summary

Determination of a role for connexin mediated cell communication in the progression of renal fibrosis in the diabetic kidney

Many people with diabetes experience nephropathy – a condition that is the leading cause of end-stage kidney disease. We know that high levels of glucose can damage kidney cells, and Professor Squires hopes to find ways to stop or prevent this damage from happening. These could be developed into treatments for diabetes-related nephropathy in the future.

Background to research

Diabetes-related nephropathy is the leading cause of end-stage kidney disease and a potentially life-threatening complication of diabetes. Long-term exposure to high levels of glucose adds extra stress onto kidneys, with the resulting damage altering the function of kidney cells. Professor Squires has previously shown that glucose can reduce the stickiness between kidney cells, preventing them from communicating with each other effectively. They have also found that people with diabetes-related nephropathy have different amounts of key proteins involved in the transfer of information between kidney cells. Without this communication with neighbour cells and their surroundings, they believe that the cells are unable to function properly.

Research aims

This project aims to understand the basic mechanisms that prevent kidney cells from functioning properly in diabetes-related nephropathy. Professor Squires’ team will be studying how glucose affects the interactions and overall function of kidney cells. They’ll be studying kidney tissue taken from people with and without diabetes-related nephropathy, alongside human kidney cells grown in conditions that mimic diabetes (high levels of glucose in the blood stream). By identifying key molecules that are important in both the survival and function of kidney cells, the team hope to find new ways to alleviate or prevent the damage to kidney function that’s caused by high levels of glucose.

Potential benefit to people with diabetes

Many people with diabetes still experience nephropathy, and we need to find new ways to stop or prevent the condition from developing. By exploring the biology behind the development of nephropathy, this research could lead to new therapies that aim to reduce the number of people developing kidney failure.

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