Making kidneys more efficient in diabetics

Diabetes is a debilitating metabolic condition that affects the kidneys, among other organs, causing them to malfunction and eventually fail to perform their job in ridding the body of toxins. Kidneys clean blood in a process called glomerular filtration. But when too much or too little filtration occurs, the blood isn’t cleaned or dehydration results from water loss. Filtration is regulated by glomerular cell contraction.

Rong Ma, PhD, Associate Professor of Integrative Physiology, is searching for the reason that glomerular cells become impaired. Is it a result of Types I and II diabetes?

"When glomerular cells relax, filtration increases," explained Ma. "When the cells contract, filtration decreases. So what causes the impairment of the cell contraction in diabetes? We suspect it is a dysfunction of the ion channel TRPC6 (Transient receptor potential cation channel, subfamily C, member 6). With hyperglycemia — high level of blood sugar — the number of TRPC6 channels is reduced, which decreases cell contraction and increases filtration in the kidneys in diabetes."

Eventually, a drug or molecular tool that could regulate expression level of TRPC6 could be administered, and the ravaging effects of diabetes on the kidneys could be reduced.

"We are still in the early stages of determining how to reduce the number of functional channels and increase kidney filtration, "Ma said. "But the results of our research could help give diabetes patients more effective treatment and reduce the negative effects of diabetes on the kidneys."


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