A recent study from the University of Bristol has found a potential new method to reduce the progression of diabetic kidney disease, which affects around 40% of people with diabetes.
The study’s findings could help the 4.8 million people in the UK with diabetes who are four times more likely to need either dialysis or a kidney transplant.
Current clinical trials have shown that spironolactone, a commonly used blood pressure medication, can reduce protein leakage into the urine, thus having a positive effect in treating the disease.
However, it can also have adverse side effects, such as high blood potassium levels, that can make clinicians reluctant to use it.
In the study, the team sought to understand how spironolactone can prevent damage to the kidneys.
They found that the drug has a protective effect by helping preserve the glycocalyx layer, which is the gel-like substance on the surface of blood vessels within the kidney.
The researchers used patient kidney biopsy specimens to develop a novel method to measure glycocalyx depth changes.
It helped them confirm that diabetes damages the glycocalyx layer and that spironolactone prevents this damage.
The team’s results also showed that spironolactone can reduce the activity of a group of enzymes called matrix metalloproteases.
It can help to preserve the glycocalyx layer on the surface of blood vessels in the kidney, thereby preventing disease progression.
The researchers’ next steps will involve looking at repurposing drugs that target matrix metalloprotease enzymes.
They want to see if they could be of benefit in patients with kidney disease, while avoiding the troublesome side effects associated with mineralocorticoid receptor blockers.
This research represents an important step towards identifying new treatments for diabetic kidney disease more quickly, thus providing hope for millions of people affected by the disease.
How to protect kidney health in diabetes
If you have diabetes, there are several steps you can take to protect your kidney health:
Control your blood sugar levels: High blood sugar levels can damage your kidneys over time. It’s important to keep your blood sugar levels within a healthy range, as recommended by your doctor.
Manage your blood pressure: High blood pressure can also damage your kidneys. You should aim to keep your blood pressure at or below 130/80 mm Hg. If you have high blood pressure, your doctor may prescribe medications to help lower it.
Follow a healthy diet: Eating a healthy diet that’s low in salt and saturated fats can help protect your kidneys. Focus on eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein sources.
Exercise regularly: Regular exercise can help improve your overall health and reduce your risk of developing kidney disease. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week.
Quit smoking: Smoking can damage your blood vessels and increase your risk of developing kidney disease. Quitting smoking can help improve your kidney health and reduce your risk of other health problems.
Take medications as prescribed: If you have diabetes or high blood pressure, it’s important to take your medications as prescribed by your doctor. These medications can help protect your kidneys from damage.
Get regular kidney function tests: If you have diabetes, your doctor may recommend regular tests to check your kidney function. These tests can help detect kidney damage early when it’s easier to treat.
If you care about blood pressure, please read studies about how diets could help lower high blood pressure, and 3 grams of omega-3s a day keep high blood pressure at bay.
For more information about kidney health, please see recent studies about foods that may prevent recurrence of kidney stones, and how to protect your kidneys from diabetes.
The study was conducted by Dr. Matthew Butler et al and published in JCI Insight.
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