Researchers from Monash University's Central Clinical School
have found that a drug, already tested on other inflammatory
diseases, can decrease kidney injury caused by diabetes.
Led by Associate Professor Melinda Coughlan from the Department
of Diabetes, the five-year study initially discovered that a key
immune system pathway, called the complement pathway - which
usually protects the body from infection - was hyperactivated and
caused inflammation in people with diabetic kidney disease.
Associate Professor Coughlan's team then discovered this pathway
could be disrupted with a drug developed by Associate Professor
Trent Woodruff, from the School of Biomedical Sciences at the
University of Queensland.
Through collaborative tests on mice with diabetes and in human
kidney cells, they could see that the drug helped to support the
normal function of the mitochondria within the kidney - known as
the "batteries of the cell" - which don't work properly in people
Associate Professor Coughlan said their discovery, published in
the US journal Diabetes on Friday
(October 18), could potentially lead to a therapy to delay or
prevent renal failure in people with diabetic kidney disease.
"We're saying this is a new link between the immune system and
the mitochondria, which could also help patients with diabetic
kidney disease by boosting mitochondrial health - so it could
protect the kidney in patients with diabetes," Associate Professor
Diabetes is one of the fastest growing chronic conditions in
Australia. 298 people are diagnosed with diabetes every day, with
one in four adults living with diabetes or pre-diabetes. The
condition is estimated to cost the economy $14.6 billion every
Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness in working adults,
and can cause stroke, heart disease, limb amputations, and is the
leading cause of renal failure.
Associate Professor Coughlan said while the discovery wasn't a
cure or prevention for diabetes, it could have enormous health and
"Findings like this will become important for managing the
health of people with diabetes. The economic burden of diabetes is
huge, and this could potentially help reduce that."
Associate Professor Coughlan, whose work includes investigating
dietary factors leading to the onset of diabetes and its
complications, said they would now look at developing medicines
that target this pathway for future use in the clinic.