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Targeted treatments for kidney disease

Project summary

Potential new strategies for the treatment of diabetic nephropathy using orthosteric or allosteric cannabinoid receptor ligands

Dr Mirela Delibegovic and her team will use drugs that affect a key group of receptors in the brain and body to study two completely new approaches for the treatment of diabetic nephropathy in mice.

Background to research

Active ingredients in the cannabis plant are known to be useful for the treatment of a number of conditions such as arthritis. They take affect by acting on the endocannabinoid system, a group of receptors in the brain and nervous system that are involved in a variety of processes including appetite, pain-sensation, mood, and memory. Evidence suggests that the system plays a crucial role in both diabetes and the complications of diabetes, including diabetic kidney disease (nephropathy). Endocannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2 are found in kidney cells and play opposing roles in nephropathy. Dr Mirela Delibegovic and her team believe that these receptors might represent a target for new treatments. They have found that a synthetic compound based on a drug derived from the cannabis plant acts on these receptors to improve kidney function in mice. They predict that blocking CB1 receptors by targeting recently discovered regions on these receptors using drugs known as ‘negative allosteric modulators’ (NAMs) may also be beneficial.

Research aims

Dr Delibegovic and her team will study two completely new approaches for the treatment of diabetic nephropathy, using the drugs Δ8 -THCV and NAMs. They will use these drugs in mice to target receptors from the endocannabinoid system, CB1 and CB2 and find out if they improve protein markers of diabetic neuropathy in the blood and urine.

Potential benefit to people with diabetes

If drugs that act on the endocannabinoid system prove to be effective for the treatment of diabetic neuropathy in mice, they could be developed into a new treatment for people living with the condition. Several cannabinoid compounds are already available for use in other diseases so findings from this study could have an immediate impact in the clinic.  

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