New LSU research aims to prevent kidney failure caused by type 2 diabetes

A National Institutes of Health grant will help LSU Pennington Biomedical Research Center take the next step to better understanding how to prevent the kidney damage and failure caused by type 2 diabetes.

Krisztian Stadler, PhD, director of the center's Oxidative Stress and Disease Laboratory, won the NIH R01 grant valued at $1.75 million over four years.

"Kidney disease is a major complication of obesity and type 2 diabetes," Dr. Stadler said. "Our projects focus on discovering the mechanisms that lead to the death of proximal tubular epithelial cells."

Tubular epithelial cells play a crucial role in kidney function, and the cells require high amounts of a specific type of energy source to work correctly - lipids and fatty acids, Dr. Stadler said. Unfortunately, people with type 2 diabetes have lipid metabolism derailments. Their kidney tubular cells can't properly burn fat or make enough of the molecule adenosine 5'-triphosphate (ATP) to meet the cells' energy needs. Without enough ATP, tubular epithelial cells wither and die.

"Our hope is that by understanding these mechanisms, future interventions can be designed not only to treat but to prevent tubular cell injury and kidney failure," Dr. Stadler said.

Diabetes is the leading cause of chronic and end-stage kidney disease, according to a 2016 article published in JAMA. An estimated 26 percent of U.S. adults with diabetes, or roughly 8.2 million people, have some form of kidney disease.

Kidney damage begins long before the symptoms manifest. If the damage continues, a person's kidneys can fail, according to the National Institutes of Health. The treatment for kidney failure is dialysis or a kidney transplant. More than half of diabetics with kidney failure have type 2 diabetes.

More than 30 million Americans have diabetes, and 90 percent to 95 percent of them have type 2 diabetes, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. An additional 84.1 million Americans have prediabetes, a condition that if left untreated often leads to type 2 diabetes within five years.

Although type 2 diabetes most frequently occurs in people over 40, increasing numbers of children, teens and young adults are developing the disease.

R01 grants, or Research Project Grants, provide support for health-related research and development. The program, NIH's original and oldest grant mechanism, is highly competitive. Less than 19 percent of applicants received funding in the 2017 fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30.

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