Science finds a thread of hope for diabetes-related kidney disease

February 7, 2012 | by City of Hope Staff

Kidney problems and diabetes seem to go hand in hand. Almost 45 percent of all new cases of kidney disease stem from diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association. Now City of Hope researchers have taken a step toward easing diabetes’ toll.

Photo of Mitsuo Kato, left, and Sumanth Putta Mitsuo Kato, left, and Sumanth Putta (Photo by Darrin S. Joy)

Called diabetes-related nephropathy, the complication happens when excess sugar in the blood stresses the kidneys. Over time, kidney damage can lead to kidney failure — and that means going on dialysis for life or getting a kidney transplant. One of the key problems is that kidneys get clogged up with collagen: thick, tough tissue that keeps kidneys from working like they should.

New research in City of Hope’s Department of Diabetes and Metabolic Diseases Research supports a way to potentially stop this collagen from being overproduced.  The team, led by postdoctoral fellow Sumanth Putta, Ph.D., research assistant professor Mitsuo Kato, Ph.D., and division director Rama Natarajan, Ph.D., National Office Products Industry Professor in Diabetes Research.

A tiny bit of genetic material in the body, a type of microRNA, controls how the body creates the troublesome collagen. That information led the researchers to design a molecule that interferes with the microRNA. It’s already worked in the lab, so scientists aim to eventually advance the approach to clinical trials one day.

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