Some blood pressure drug can help treat diabetic kidney disease

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Diabetic kidney disease affects approximately 40% of individuals with diabetes, translating to nearly 2 million people in the UK alone who are at a higher risk of requiring intensive treatments such as dialysis or kidney transplants.

In efforts to mitigate this, a common drug known as spironolactone, traditionally used to treat high blood pressure, has shown promise in protecting the kidneys by preventing protein leakage into the urine—a key marker of kidney damage.

However, spironolactone’s utility has been tempered by its side effects, particularly the risk of elevating potassium levels in the blood, which has made some doctors hesitant to prescribe it widely for kidney protection.

A groundbreaking study conducted by researchers at the University of Bristol has shed new light on how spironolactone benefits kidney health in diabetic patients.

Their research focused on a protective gel-like layer that lines the blood vessels in the kidneys, known as the glycocalyx. This layer is crucial for kidney function and is vulnerable to damage in diabetic conditions.

The Bristol team developed a novel method to measure changes in the thickness of the glycocalyx layer and discovered that diabetes deteriorates this protective layer. Importantly, their findings indicated that spironolactone could effectively prevent this damage.

One of the pivotal mechanisms identified in the study is the drug’s ability to inhibit enzymes known as matrix metalloproteases, which are known to degrade the glycocalyx layer.

This discovery opens up new avenues for treatment options that could protect the kidneys without the undesirable side effects associated with spironolactone.

The researchers are now exploring alternative drugs that can similarly slow down these harmful enzymes and offer a safer profile for long-term use.

For individuals with diabetes, maintaining kidney health is crucial. Here are several proactive steps that can be taken:

Monitor Blood Sugar Levels: Keeping diabetes under control is critical as high blood sugar levels can damage the kidneys over time.

Manage Blood Pressure: High blood pressure can further harm kidney function, and should be kept at or below 130/80 mm Hg.

Adopt a Healthy Diet: Eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins, while limiting salt and saturated fats, can support kidney health.

Regular Exercise: Physical activity helps control blood pressure, body weight, and metabolism, which are important for kidney health.

Avoid Smoking: Smoking damages blood vessels and can worsen kidney problems.

Adherence to Medication: Following your doctor’s prescription regimen is key to managing both diabetes and its complications.

Regular Kidney Function Tests: Screening for kidney function can help catch any signs of kidney damage early, allowing for timely intervention.

This study, led by Dr. Matthew Butler and published in JCI Insight, represents a significant step towards better understanding and potentially improving the treatment landscape for diabetic kidney disease.

It not only highlights the intricate relationship between diabetes and kidney health but also underscores the potential for new therapies that could provide substantial benefits to millions of affected individuals.

If you care about high blood pressure, please read studies about unhealthy habits that may increase high blood pressure risk, and drinking green tea could help lower blood pressure.

For more information about high blood pressure, please see recent studies about what to eat or to avoid for high blood pressure,  and 12 foods that lower blood pressure.

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