Navigation path

Countries
Countries
  Algeria
  Argentina
  Australia
  Austria
  Bangladesh
  Belarus
  Belgium
  Benin
  Bolivia
  Botswana
  Brazil
  Bulgaria
  Burkina Faso
  Cameroon
  Canada
  Cape Verde
  Chile
  China
  Colombia
  Costa Rica
  Croatia
  Cyprus
  Czech Republic
  Denmark
  Ecuador
  Egypt
  Estonia
  Ethiopia
  Finland
  France
  Gambia
  Georgia
  Germany
  Ghana
  Greece

Countries
Countries
  Algeria
  Argentina
  Australia
  Austria
  Bangladesh
  Belarus
  Belgium
  Benin
  Bolivia
  Botswana
  Brazil
  Bulgaria
  Burkina Faso
  Cameroon
  Canada
  Cape Verde
  Chile
  China
  Colombia
  Costa Rica
  Croatia
  Cyprus
  Czech Republic
  Denmark
  Ecuador
  Egypt
  Estonia
  Ethiopia
  Finland
  France
  Gambia
  Georgia
  Germany
  Ghana
  Greece


   Infocentre

Published: 13 November 2015  
Related theme(s) and subtheme(s)
Health & life sciencesBiotechnology  |  Drugs & drug processes  |  Major diseases  |  Medical research  |  Molecular biology
Special CollectionsDiabetes
Success storiesHealth & life sciences
Countries involved in the project described in the article
Finland
Add to PDF "basket"

New defences against kidney disease in diabetes

Why do so many diabetes patients develop kidney disease, and how can we improve prevention? EU-funded research has examined insulin-related processes at play in impaired renal function - and it may have found a way to protect key cells that help to filter our blood.

Photo of test stripes examined by a nurse
© esben468635 - fotolia.com

The DiaDrug project shed new light on diabetic kidney disease and identified molecules that could be targeted to stop this condition in its tracks. Drugs based on these insights could significantly reduce the risk of progression towards severe forms of the condition that might involve dialysis or even transplants, says project coordinator Sanna Lehtonen of the University of Helsinki.

The molecules such drugs would target are also involved in many other metabolic processes, Lehtonen notes. The project’s insights are thus opening up exciting possibilities for treatment of other conditions.

Insulin insights

In theory, your kidneys shouldn’t let a molecule the size of albumin cross from your blood into your urine. In practice, small amounts of this protein do get through for many people.

This phenomenon is known as albuminuria. Increased levels can be a forerunner of kidney disease, a complication that affects approximately one diabetes patient in three.

“Albuminuria is one of the key features of diabetic nephropathy. The molecular mechanisms associated with its development are not exactly known,” Lehtonen explains.

What is known, she adds, is that patients are at higher risk of developing kidney disease if they are resistant to insulin, i.e. if their cells don’t respond to this glucose-regulating hormone properly. One type of kidney cell — the podocyte, which is central to the organ’s blood-cleansing activity — is known to be sensitive to this hormone, Lehtonen notes.

Keeping podocytes in the pink

“Our major aim was to explore the relationship between insulin resistance and albuminuria,” she explains. “More specifically, we wanted to identify the molecules in the podocytes that make them insulin resistant or affect their glucose metabolism.”

Pinpointing these molecules is difficult enough, but it was merely a first step for DiaDrug. “Once you identify these proteins and you see that their activity is increased in diabetes, you know that by inhibiting them, you can sensitise the cells to insulin,” Lehtonen adds. Of course, the inhibitors – small molecules that disrupt their function – then still need to be found.

DiaDrug’s search was successful. “We have found a protein that is more active in diabetes in tissues responding to insulin, as well as several small molecules that can bind to this protein and inhibit its activity,” Lehtonen reports.

It’s a promising discovery, which could eventually help to reduce insulin resistance and stop the progression of kidney disease for many at-risk patients. However, says Lehtonen, there is still a long way to go to develop these leads into effective, licensed drugs. The entire process could easily take another 15 years, she notes, but the results of the DiaDrug team’s studies on cultured cells, zebrafish and mice are encouraging.

Fresh blood

EU financial support for this research came in the form of a Starting Grant awarded by the European Research Council. This type of funding is available to particularly promising researchers at the beginning of their career who are looking to set up their own teams.

“The grant really started my independent career at the University of Helsinki,” Lehtonen notes. It helped to establish her as a research leader, she reports, adding that it may also have played a role in securing the tenure-track position that she obtained during the course of the project.

DiaDrug ended in October 2014, but the work continues. Developing the project’s findings into actual treatments available to patients will be a massive and lengthy task, Lehtonen notes, but the potential is truly exciting.

“Many of the molecules that we work on are present in almost every single cell in your body,” she explains. The ability to control them could thus be of interest for other metabolic conditions, and applications beyond diabetes may be just around the corner.

Project details

  • Project acronym:DIADRUG
  • Participants:Finland (Coordinator)
  • Project Reference N° 242820
  • Total cost: €2 000 000
  • EU contribution: €2 000 000
  • Duration:November 2009 - October 2014

Convert article(s) to PDF

No article selected


loading


Search articles

Notes:
To restrict search results to articles in the Information Centre, i.e. this site, use this search box rather than the one at the top of the page.

After searching, you can expand the results to include the whole Research and Innovation web site, or another section of it, or all Europa, afterwards without searching again.

Please note that new content may take a few days to be indexed by the search engine and therefore to appear in the results.

Print Version
Share this article
See also

Project web site

Project information on CORDIS

Contacts
Unit A1 - External & internal communication,
Directorate-General for Research & Innovation,
European Commission
Tel : +32 2 298 45 40
  Top   Research Information Center
 
Countries
Countries
  Algeria
  Argentina
  Australia
  Austria
  Bangladesh
  Belarus
  Belgium
  Benin
  Bolivia
  Botswana
  Brazil
  Bulgaria
  Burkina Faso
  Cameroon
  Canada
  Cape Verde
  Chile
  China
  Colombia
  Costa Rica
  Croatia
  Cyprus
  Czech Republic
  Denmark
  Ecuador
  Egypt
  Estonia
  Ethiopia
  Finland
  France
  Gambia
  Georgia
  Germany
  Ghana
  Greece

Countries
Countries
  Algeria
  Argentina
  Australia
  Austria
  Bangladesh
  Belarus
  Belgium
  Benin
  Bolivia
  Botswana
  Brazil
  Bulgaria
  Burkina Faso
  Cameroon
  Canada
  Cape Verde
  Chile
  China
  Colombia
  Costa Rica
  Croatia
  Cyprus
  Czech Republic
  Denmark
  Ecuador
  Egypt
  Estonia
  Ethiopia
  Finland
  France
  Gambia
  Georgia
  Germany
  Ghana
  Greece