Breakthrough in treating diabetic kidney disease

Monday, 13 February, 2017

Swedish and Australian researchers have prevented the progression of diabetic kidney disease (DKD) in laboratory studies of type 2 diabetes. Published in the journal Cell Metabolism, their work signals an important breakthrough in the field of diabetes research.

DKD is an often fatal, long-term complication of diabetes and the most common cause of severe renal disease, affecting approximately one-third of people with type 2 diabetes. At present, there are few treatment options available that prevent the progressive loss of renal function for people with DKD.

Seeking a remedy for the disease, researchers from Sweden’s Karolinska Institutet and Uppsala University investigated a therapeutic approach that targets the transport of fatty acids, or lipids, from the blood into tissues. Specifically, they sought to block signalling of vascular endothelial growth factor B (VEGF-B) — a protein that affects the transport and storage of lipids in body tissue — elevated levels of which are found in DKD patients.

Using the monoclonal antibody 2H10, developed by biotechnology company CSL, the researchers successfully inhibited signalling by the VEGF-B protein, reduced the accumulation of lipid deposits within the kidney and moderated the progression of kidney disease in a number of models of type 2 diabetes. Mouse models treated with the 2H10 antibody also showed improvements in blood pressure and insulin sensitivity.

“The study reveals some mechanistic understanding of the disease progression and challenges the hypothesis that diabetic kidney disease is simply the result of chronic elevated blood glucose,” said Professor Ulf Eriksson from Karolinska Institutet, the lead researcher on the study.

“This research addresses an important area of unmet medical need and could lead to an entirely new approach to the treatment of type 2 diabetes,” added Dr Andrew Nash, senior vice president of research at CSL.

CSL has developed a version of the 2H10 antibody that is suitable for use in humans (known as CSL346) and will commence phase 1, first-in-human clinical trials in Australia this year. The trials will focus on proof of biological concept with a view to unlocking the full therapeutic potential of the molecule.

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