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Imaging the kidney in diabetes

Project summary

Imaging the kidney in diabetes

Professor Coward will purchase a combined transmitted light and fluorescent microscope and an imaging computer, which will help his team to study kidney cells and drive forward their understanding of diabetic kidney disease and the development of new therapies.

Background to research

Diabetic kidney disease is the world's leading cause of kidney failure, and it requires dialysis or transplantation. Therefore, preventing kidney damage as a result of high blood glucose levels is incredibly important. We know that the filtering unit of the kidney (the glomerulus) is damaged early on in diabetic kidney disease. Professor Richard Coward and his team of 25 kidney scientists are studying two key kidney cells, called podocytes and endothelial cells, to understand their roles and develop new treatments to protect them and the glomerulus from damage. One key aspect of their work involves the use of genetic engineering, to manipulate chemical signalling in these cells and look at the affects on glomerular and kidney function. Studying the impact of these experiments requires high-quality microscopic imaging, which is currently unavailable to the researchers in their building.

Research aims

Professor Coward will purchase a combined transmitted light and fluorescent microscope, together with an imaging computer, which will help his team to study mouse and human kidney cells that have been derived from or exposed to diabetic environments. The new equipment will be highly beneficial in driving forward their understanding of diabetic kidney disease and the development of new therapies. In particular, they will focus on why diabetic kidney disease develops in the first place, the molecular pathways involved and why it turns into complete kidney failure in some people with diabetes but not others. It will also enable them to assess the impact of potential new treatments.

Potential benefit to people with diabetes

Using their new equipment, the researchers hope to discover important signalling pathways in the glomerulus that they will be able to manipulate to improve the symptoms of kidney disease. This will hopefully lead to new, more effective treatments for this complication of diabetes.

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