August 2012

Discovery of Gene Associated with Risk of Diabetic Kidney Disease

Fri, 3 August 12 09:00

ResearchKidney disease is a common and serious complication of diabetes and it is associated with a greatly increased risk of heart attack and stroke.  Globally, diabetic kidney disease is now the leading cause of end stage kidney failure requiring dialysis or kidney transplant.  Up to now scientists and clinicians were aware that only some patients with diabetes will develop kidney disease but the basis of this susceptibility was not known.

The researchers carefully analysed over two million DNA markers in the genome of each person with diabetes who participated in the gene scan. In the largest study of its kind, the investigators recruited 4,750 patients with diabetic kidney disease and almost 7,000 patients with long-standing diabetes but with no evidence of kidney disease. Their findings, to be published in the journal PLoS Genetics , demonstrate  that changes associated with two genes  called AFF3 and ERBB4 increase the risk of kidney disease. When the researchers experimentally   altered the levels of these genes in kidney cells they were able to mimic disease. 

‘Currently available drugs cannot cure the kidney failure but may slow its progression. Knowing which patients are most at risk of kidney complications will be helpful in managing their diabetes’ commented Professor Peter Maxwell of Queen’s University, one of the principal investigators on the study.  Professor Catherine Godson, lead investigator of the UCD group observes that  ‘ these new research findings are very important as they define mechanisms that underpin the development of this devastating disease. This research helps accelerate development of new and effective therapies’. 

This work is supported by the US-Ireland research and development programme, a collaborative initiative funded by Science Foundation Ireland, the Northern Ireland R&D Office and the US National Institutes of Health.