Features  |  Health  

Scientists prevent, reverse diabetes-related kidney destruction in animal model

By Chukwuma Muanya, Assistant Editor (Head Insight Team, Science and Technology) |   05 January 2016   |   4:10 am  

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DIABETES is the leading cause of kidney failure, and scientists have found that infusing just a small dose of a cytokine, thought to help cause that failure, can instead prevent or reverse it.

A kidney pathologist at the Vascular Biology Center at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University, Dr. Ganesan Ramesh, the cytokine IL-17A has long been considered a classic promoter of inflammation, which plays a major role in progression of diabetes-related kidney disease, or diabetic nephropathy,

The study was published in Journal of the American Society of Nephrology.

His lab was pursuing its role in kidney damage but found that when they deleted the IL-17 gene in mice, then induced diabetes, it resulted in increased kidney injury, Ramesh said. They looked next at patients with severe diabetic nephropathy, and found levels of IL-17A reduced in their blood and urine.

In follow-up studies in animal models of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, IL-17A’s surprising role grew: When researchers infused a small amount of IL-17A every 48 hours for several weeks, it prevented or reversed diabetic nephropathy in their diabetes models. In fact, the therapy worked best in late-stage diabetic nephropathy, Ramesh said.

IL-17A therapy also reduced high levels of fat in the blood, a hallmark of type 2 diabetes that is believed to contribute to related kidney and cardiovascular problems.

“It clearly indicates that IL-17A is protective,” Ramesh said. “It does well for the kidney in suppressing damage in response to diabetes.” Ramesh is corresponding author of the study, published in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, which is the first to look at IL-17’s role in chronic kidney disease.

Meanwhile, a microencapsulation method, developed by Okinawa Institute of Technology and Science Graduate University (OIST) researchers, can help to overcome major challenges in pancreatic islet transplantation.

Diabetes is one of the leading causes of death. Patients with type 1 diabetes have their insulin secreting cells destroyed by the immune system and require daily insulin injections. Pancreatic islet transplantation is an effective treatment that can dramatically reduce daily doses or even eliminate dependence on external insulin.

Insulin-producing cells are injected into a recipient liver. After an adaptation period they start to produce sufficient hormone needed by diabetic patients.

However, while the transplantation procedure itself has been greatly improved in recent years, collection, preservation, and transportation of these cells are still very challenging.

Research published in Advanced Healthcare Materials by the scientists from the Okinawa Institute of Technology and Science Graduate University (OIST) in collaboration with the University of Washington and Wuhan University of Technology offers a solution for some of these problems.

Production and secretion of insulin occur in the pancreas – an endocrine gland in the digestive system. Cells secreting insulin are clustered in pancreatic islets. Despite their crucial role in organismal wellbeing these islets comprise only a few percent of the pancreatic tissue. The islet transplantation does not require major surgical intervention and is often done under local anaesthesia. It is also cheaper and might be safer than transplantation of the entire pancreas. Unfortunately, so far, only human islets can be transplanted and their supply is but a trickle.

Cryopreservation, or deep freezing, is the method commonly used for the islet preservation and transportation. But it is not completely safe. One might think that storage at temperatures below -190°C is the most dangerous phase. However, the cells are very good at enduring it. It is the freezing process (-15 to -60°C) itself that poses the most challenges. As the cells are cooled, water in and around them freezes.

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